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The origin of “drone”


von_Tom
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von_Tom


A De Havilland Queen Bee in 1935 at Farnborough - a radio controlled version of the Tiger Moth and where the use of the name "drone" comes from.


von Tom

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AndyJWest

Naming unmanned aircraft after insects goes back further than that: the Kettering Bug first flew in 1918. And if the Queen Bee was the origin of the 'drone' name, someone clearly didn't know much about bees. Drones are male.

 

According to Merriam-Webster, the term 'drone' was apparently first applied to aircraft in 1946.

 

 

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von_Tom
Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, AndyJWest said:

 

According to Merriam-Webster, the term 'drone' was apparently first applied to aircraft in 1946.

 

https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887324110404578625803736954968


 If you cannot read it die to subscriptions etc, the relevant text is:

 

In 1935, U.S. Adm. William H. Standley saw a British demonstration of the Royal Navy's new remote-control aircraft for target practice, the DH 82B Queen Bee. Back stateside, Standley charged Commander Delmer Fahrney with developing something similar for the Navy. "Fahrney adopted the name 'drone' to refer to these aircraft in homage to the Queen Bee," Mr. Zaloga wrote. The term fit, as a drone could only function when controlled by an operator on the ground or in a "mother" plane.

 

von Tom

Edited by von_Tom
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AndyJWest

Interesting. The WSJ knows more than Merriam-Webster then. I'll see if I can find anything else online to back this up.

 

Edit:

Another source confirming what the WSJ claims. This seems to be a doctoral dissertation, and quotes what Fahrney himself had to say:

https://escholarship.org/content/qt0fg216f7/qt0fg216f7.pdf?t=odyp1x

 

Quote

Along in November 1936, Fahrney discussed with Dr. Taylor, Technical Director of the NRL, the selection of a code name which would best describe the project. It was brought out that the English had dubbed their project the ‘Queen Bee’ and following this phraseology, a number of insect names were reviewed.

 

Quote

It was decided that the word DRONE best fitted the situation in which a released target plane found itself engaged; and the terminology was easy to handle. Without further ado the name was used in all discussions oral and written and the term persists to this day.
 

 

The quotes are from Fahrney, The History of Pilotless Aircraft and Guided Missiles, published in 1958. Fahrney seems to have had difficulty having his work recognised until recently.

Edited by AndyJWest
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von_Tom

 

 

Thanks for finding that source.  Fascinating stuff, and it fits so well.

 

von Tom

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