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Interstate TDR-1 — the Navy’s first UAV?

8 February 2012

Interstate TDR-1 — the Navy’s first UAV?

“Edna III” hangs suspended from the roof of the main building in the WW II area of the National Naval Aviation Museum. She has  a clean twin piston engine design but with a cyclops-like eye and no cockpit.

No cockpit?

Yes, at the time it was termed an assault drone but the Interstate TDR-1 could today be called a UAV since it was flown remotely by a pilot who could change course and speed for up to three hours of flight. Manufactured by Interstate Aircraft and Engineering Corp., the TDR-1 had a port in the nose for a TV camera enabling the remote pilot to see the course of the aircraft as well as the readout from the on-board radar altimeter. Construction could have hardly been simpler with plywood over steel tubes. The engines — each 220 hp (160kW) — could power the TDR and its 2000 pound (~910kg) warload for 425 miles (369km) at 140 mph (230kph). Armed with either an aerial torpedo, or bombs, once the TDR took flight it was on a one way mission since the tricycle landing gear would be jettisoned. The aircraft was quite large with a 48 foot (15m) wingspan, nearly the span of its mothership which was a Grumman TBM Avenger. Unusually, and due to its size, the TDR could be manned with the pilot sitting squarely over the wing. A fairing would be placed over the cockpit after a temporary windscreen was removed  whenever a combat mission was scheduled.

Envisioned to be used against Japanese shipping the drones were successful. However, the U.S. Navy cancelled the program since it was determined to no longer be required given the threat level toward war’s end. One man, a man who was heavily involved with the TDR in theater, disputes this and his name is James J. Hall. He also authored a book on his experiences entitled, American Kamikaze. I have not had the pleasure to read this title, though I would very much like to someday, but a person whose opinion I very much trust has — Bill Gordon — and his review on American Kamikaze is here on his 神風 Kamikaze Images website.

The rare Interstate TDR-1, which is in the National Naval Aviation Museum, is the subject of the photographs below:

The Interstate TDR-1 in the National Naval Aviation Museum — photo by Joseph May

This ship is made to look like the "Edna III" which successfully attacked a Japanese ship in WW II — photo by Joseph May

The TDR was marked for its clean lines and nose mounted TV camera — note the three bombs with 250 pound (~115kg) bombs placed one each behind each engine as well as the fuselage mounted 500 pound bomb (230kg) — photo by Joseph May

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Joe Haug permalink
    8 February 2012 23:09

    The TDR program was the subject of a 2010 segment on PBS’s History Detectives shich can be seen here:

    I found a propeller from a later version – a TDR3 – which was the origin of the PBS story.

    • travelforaircraft permalink
      8 February 2012 23:21

      Thanks very much for this 🙂 I have not seen it but intend to over the weekend — thanks again — Joe

  2. travelforaircraft permalink
    5 October 2015 07:04

    Thank you?


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