Developed in the 1950s, the U.S. Navy’s QH-50 DASH (Drone Anti-Submarine
Helicopter) was the first, and so far only, operational unmanned helicopter
designed for a combat role.
The DASH program had its roots in the late 1950s, when the U.S. Navy sought a
way to upgrade its World War II-era destroyers to effectively counter the Soviet
submarine threat. In April 1958, Gyrodyne received a contract to redesign its
manned helicopter so it could be flown remotely from the deck of a destroyer
carrying a torpedo. The result was the QH-50, which first flew with a safety
pilot on board in 1959, while the first unmanned flight succeeded in August
Over the next decade, nearly 800 QH-50s were built, using various engines. While
primarily designed for operation from a ship, the QH-50 could also be controlled
from another manned aircraft or a mobile ground vehicle. It demonstrated that
unmanned helicopters could drop sonobuoys and flares, perform rescues, transport
cargo, illuminate targets at night, and lay down smokescreens. When equipped
with TV cameras, it could also perform surveillance and target spotting.
QH-50 production ended in 1969, and in 1970 the whole DASH program was cancelled
Starting in 1973, the remaining QH-50s were used as target drones on White Sands
Missile Range for surface-to-air and air-to-air missile training. The QH-50s
were modified to carry tow targets so that the drone itself would only seldom be
shot down. These target-towing drones are currently under the control of the
U.S. Army's Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training & Instrumentation
(PEO-STRI), and are still in use at WSMR.
LENGTH: 7 ft. 7 in.
WINGSPAN: 20 ft.
WEIGHT: 2330 lbs
SPEED: 92 knots
CEILING: 16,000 ft.
ENDURANCE: 90 minutes
FIRST FIRING: April 1965
RANGE: 40 nautical miles