The Hitchhiker's Guide to Dayton Tech & Startups

The Hitchhiker's Guide to Dayton Tech & Startups

Watch: The Bug, one of the world's first drones, built in Dayton (Dayton Daily News)

This video and article, written by Ty Greenless, first appeared in the Dayton Daily News on April 14, 2016. You can read the original post here.

Most know Dayton’s Wright brothers were the first to fly a powered airplane.

Another aviation innovation happened in Dayton, lovingly called the “bug.”

In the late 1910s, inventor Charles F. Kettering, launched one of the world’s first drones as a test project for the U.S. Army in the final year of World War I. (The Hewitt-Sperry Flying Bomb was also under development by Elmer Sperry and Peter Hewitt at the same time and the two drones shared some technology.)

The drone was officially named the “Kettering Aerial Torpedo,” but was later called simply the Kettering Bug. Construction of the Bug was completed by the Dayton-Wright Airplane Company, where Orville Wright was consulted.

The Bug was built as a flying bomb. When the target was reached, the wings would drop off and the rest of the craft, laden with 180 pounds of explosives, would fall and explode on impact.

Its look resembles its official “aerial torpedo” name, with a long, torpedo-like body that was constructed of wood laminates and paste-board. The bi-plane-like wings were made of wood frame and doped paper or muslin covering had had a slight V shape for stability, at Orville Wright’s suggestion.

The Bug had a 40-horsepower V-4 engine built by the Ford Motor Company that turned a wooden propeller. A gyroscope from Elmer Sperry and his Hewitt-Sperry Flying Bomb was used in concert with an aneroid barometer, gears, pneumatic/vacuum system and electricity to navigate and maintain altitude. A mechanical counter would track the distance traveled.

The first flight of the Bug, on Oct. 2, 1918, was a failure, but subsequent flights were successful. The Bug was demonstrated for the Army, and 45 of them were built before the WWI ended. The U.S. Army Air Services continued to experiment with the Bugs until funding ran out in March 1920.

The Bug is considered part of the cruise missile evolution and cost the U.S. Government about $275,000 over three years of development and testing. A reproduction is on display in the Early Years Gallery of the National Museum of the United States Air Force.