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First Rotary Winged UAV — Gyrodyne’s QH-50 DASH

4 February 2012

First Rotary Winged UAV — Gyrodyne’s QH-50 DASH

During the Vietnam War the world’s first rotary winged unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was tested. Manufactured by Gyrodyne and given the designation of QH-50 (Q=drone H=helicopter) it was also christened with the acronym D.A.S.H., which stands for Drone Anti Submarine Helicopter.

It met with limited success, but success nonetheless, with failures falling into a pair of categories — operator error and radio control equipment. Operator errors could be understood since the drone was flown without the aid of on-board video so the “pilot” had to fly the QH-50 from a distorted perspective within the ship’s (usually a destroyer) Combat Information Center (CIC) primarily using sonar and radar tracks.  Make no mistake, this was no drone, it was a UAV since it could have its course, speed and altitude altered as the situation demanded. A U.S. Marine was rescued with a QH-50 — serving to underscore this point. Radio control was not advanced in the day and Vietnam’s humidity played havoc with the electronics of airborne missiles, as well as the QH-50’s electronics.

The March 2012 edition, which is up now, of the Air & Space Smithsonian magazine has an excellent article written by Rebecca Maksel, entitled D.A.S.H. Goes to War — it is a great read with a high quality image of the QH-50 now on display in the National Air & Space Museum Steven F Udvar-Hazy Center.

Below are images of the Gyrodyne QH-50C DASH displayed at the Carolinas Aviation Museum.

Starboard side of the Gyrodyne QH-50 DASH, note the two aerial torpedoes for an antisubmarine warfare (ASW) mission— photo by Joseph May

Forward view of the QH-50 with the turbojet engine atop the weapons — photo by Joseph May

The control console of the QH-50 which would have been in the ship's Combat Information Center — photo by Joseph May

Rear port quarter view showing the counter-rotating rotors, eliminating the need for a tail rotor — photo by Joseph May

More posts regarding the Carolinas Aviation Museum and the National Air & Space Museum Steven F Udvar-Hazy Center can be found by pasting the appropriate name into the search window and selecting ENTER :)

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