July 30, 1957 – The First Pilotless Helicopter Flight

Kaman HTK-1K Drone

Kaman HTK-1K Drone, the “Yellow Peril”

On July 30, 1957, a modified Kaman HTK-1K helicopter successfully lifted off under remote control.  Nicknamed the “Yellow Peril”, the copter was manufactured by Kaman Aerospace of Bloomfield, Connecticut.  It was developed as part of a continuing program by the United States military and its aerospace contractors to create drone helicopters capable of delivering weapons such as torpedoes.

The HTK-1K was 14 feet high, 38 feet long, and had a rotor with a 40-foot span.  It was powered by a single 450-horsepower Lycoming engine and had a top speed of 72 mph.  The series of tests the US Navy conducted with the HTK-1K led it to develop the Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter program, or DASH.  The Gyrodyne Company of Long Island eventually won the contract to develop the DASH, which would become a cheap and unmanned method to deliver conventional and nuclear anti-submarine weapons at great range and without risk to military personnel.

Image Credit: W. Mutza/National Museum of Naval Aviation