Most people don’t realize just how long unmanned aircraft have been around; basic autopilot technology is well over a century old, and radio-controlled drones pre-date WWII. This exciting picture shows a GM A-1 drone from 1946, being launched by a great-looking car. What is that car?
My friend Tom just posted this on Facebook looking for an answer, so I figured we could help him out, since this looks like fun.
It seems reasonable to guess the car is a GM product, considering who built the drone, but it’s also possible it’s just something that happened to be available at (what Tom thinks is) Muroc Air Force Base, which later became Edwards Air Force Base.
These little A-1 drones, also called “Bugs,” had 200 horsepower engines and could carry a 500 pound bomb load for up to 400 miles, at 200 mph. They were radio-controlled but “airmen noted poor directional control,” which is sort of important for a drone.
But, really, we just care about the car right now. I think it’s likely from the late ‘30s, and it may have custom fenders, which could be what’s throwing me off. It does look pretty stripped down.
So, any idea what this little bug-launching beast is? Speculate away!