War Heritage Institute

Object of the month – the drone

Remembering the past, building the Future


Discover an object from our collections each month.

Remembering the past …

By the end of the 1930s the Radioplane Company in the US started producing drones for anti-aircraft artillery training. Some 9,400 Radioplane OQ-3 (the model in the picture below) were produced during the Second World War. From 1946 onward the company released the more evolved OQ-19 model, which is on display in the Museum’s Aviation Hall. This catapulted model is equipped with a 72 hp engine able to reach 370 km/h and with a 90-minute autonomy.

The 18-year old posing with the drone in 1945 is a Radioplane Company employee named Norma Jean Dougherty. The world would come to know her as… Marilyn Monroe!

© Moors Michael

Building the futur …

Traffic monitoring, evaluating the extent of damages after natural catastrophes, (forest) fires monitoring, surveillance of electrical networks, parcel delivery, topographic data collecting, localizing criminals, etc.: the initially military devices are now extensively used in civilian society. The Belgian army joins the movement by putting two B-Hunter type drones at the disposal of the Maritime Information Crossroads. The items are used to safeguard the security of tourists visiting the Belgian coast and its beaches, and to ensure cleaner waters (pollution control). The quaint contraption is now also widely sold in a simplified version and seduces increasing numbers of people. On social networks the “selfie” is a thing of the past, replaced as it is by the “dronie”, i.e. a short video showing where exactly the person posting it is located. A tight shot zooms out as the drone goes up in the air. Sports of all kinds picked up on the trend and share images of sporting achievements.

Norma Jean Dougherty (Marilyn Monroe) at the Radioplane Company plant in Burbank, California, 1945, by David Conover.


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