By SAMANTHA GHOLAR News Sun
AVON PARK – It’s the last step to a nearly perfect piece of military history and involved parties are excited about it. The flying target drone that was found in the swampy waters in the Avon Park Air Force Range 10 years ago now awaits its last piece of the restoration puzzle.
The OQ-19 target drone was used during the Cold War, according to former Army pilots, for gunnery practice of crews on B-52s and B-47s. The rare piece of history was brought to the facility in 2009.
Thursday morning several gathered to get a peek of the last piece of the restoration for the drone. Target Management Office officials, including Logistics Management Specialist John Allen, traveled from Huntsville, Ala. to bring the final two pieces.
Probably the most interesting thing about these was who made some of the first ones….
Reginald Denny developed his first RP-1 model as a drone designed for military target practice. “He pitched basically a radio controlled airplane to fly as a target,” says Tony Chong, Northrop Grumman’s in-house historian, “A lot of people knew how to fly radio controlled planes back then. It wasn’t a big leap to teach military personnel how to use them.”
Denny named his company Radioplane and modified the design of his target drone selling 53 RP-4s to the US Army in 1940, and many more RP-5s in 1941. The Navy also got in on the action, calling their drones the TDD-1: “Target Drone Denny 1”. It wasn’t until the late 1940s that Radioplane started developing the technology to pre-program plane routes. The next step was fully autonomous systems, which were around as early as the mid-70s.
While Denny’s acting career never really took off, his drone invention hobby proved successful. And he might also take credit for helping to launch the career of the most famous actress ever. Denny, believing there was real ‘morale’ potential on his factory floor, urged the captain of the Army’s PR Hollywood division (Ronald Regan, obviously) to send over a photographer. And that’s where he found Marilyn Monroe working the assembly line.