Drones got their start on Aberdeen Proving Ground {Letter]

Drones got their start on Aberdeen Proving Ground [letter to the editor]


The drone military aircraft is a new armament. Much attention has been given to this war vehicle recently. A couple of radio talk show hosts decry the technology. They argue it can be used to spy upon the country's population. Television loves to show the drone in flight as it cruises toward a target. Some newspapers have printed articles praising the drone. They contend it will reduce the number of people needed to fight.

The drone is really receiving much attention. This has delighted me as I was one of the four man team that launched the first American made drone from Spesutie Island, Aberdeen Proving Ground, in the 1960s.

That team was Dr. A. H. Hodge, a master physicist; Dr. Keats Pullen, an electrical engineer of note; pilot John Rollins, a highly decorated command bomber pilot who served in World War II; and me, Marcus G. Saintsbury, an electronics technician, low man on the totem pole, whose job was to maintain the batteries in excellent condition, and to track the drone in flight by radar. All were Ballistics Research Laboratory personnel.

Before each drone run, Rollins would take his Cessna aircraft around the proposed drone route. This would be a trip up the Susquehanna to the [then] new Route 40 bridge and back, to check the area flying conditions. Upon return, he would occupy the second seat in the radar van.

Then the drone would take off from that same make-shift landing pad on Spesutie Island under the "Joy Stick" operation of Dr. Hodge. There were some 30 of these runs made. Only one ran afoul. The drone took off fine and headed up the Susquehanna, but for some unknown reason it suddenly turned right and headed toward the Eastern Shore and disappeared. So it was back to the lab for me, where I turned on the radio for some news. The news announcer shouted out, "A fireworks plant on the Eastern Shore has just blown up. No one was injured and no cause can be determined." I shuddered at hearing such news; but when I calmed down I said to myself, "I know what caused that explosion, it was a run-a-way drone aircraft."

Marcus G. Stansbury Sr.

Havre de Grace

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