02 May 2009

The first generation of UAVs had their start with Leigh Dugmore Denny, a Hollywood actor with Paramount Studios. Denny had a passion for radio-controlled aircraft and even opened a hobby shop on Hollywood Boulevard. In 1934 he founded Denny Industries to build RC model planes and quickly realized that there would be military potential for his models. The following year he founded Radioplane Company and would later secure a large contract to build aerial targets during the Second World War.

In 1952 Radioplane was acquired by Northrop and became the Radioplane Division and by the 1960s, it would be renamed the Ventura Division of Northrop, still engaged in the manufacture of UAV aircraft. In 1968, the year after Denny passed away, the Ventura Division delivered the first MQM-74/BQM-74 Chukar to the US Navy. By the time of Operation Iraqi Freedom, over 5000 Chukar UAVs had been built. Some were even used in Desert Storm as well as Iraqi Freedom to lay chaff corridors for inbound strike aircraft.

Source: Attack of the Drones: A History of Unmanned Aerial Combat by Bill Yenne. Zenith Press, 2004, p15-31.

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