Quick Facts

Radioplane Drone 

Radioplane OQ-2A Drone

ERA: WWII

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Oliver

Located in the Flight Discovery Center, suspended over Restoration Center

The Radioplane Company produced its drone line in response to the U.S. Army Air Forces’ need for target practice and training during World War II (1939-1945). The OQ-2A model became America’s first mass produced unpiloted vehicle. In fact, Radioplane manufactured some 15,000 drones during the war. An unmanned aircraft named the DH.82B Queen Bee may be the inspiration behind the term “drone,” which caught on as the common name for these unmanned aircraft in the 1930s. Variants followed the OQ-2, including the OQ-3/TDD-2 and OQ-14/TDD-3.  

A Simple Plan

An uncomplicated design, the OQ-2 drew its power from a two stroke, two-cylinder, six-horsepower engine, which turned contra rotating propellers. It came equipped with a Bendix radio control system. Should it survive target practice, the catapult launched OQ-2 featured a 24 ft (diameter) parachute used to cushion its landing.  

Radioplane Sees the Stars

Designer Walter Righter (1905-1982) built the OQ-2 as a small, radio-controlled aircraft. English stage and screen actor Reginald Denny (1891-1967), active in demonstrating such technologies to the U.S. military and later considered a drone pioneer, purchased Walter’s design in 1939. Radioplane boasts another superstar association. Radioplane’s plant, located in Van Nuys, CA, attracted the attention of a young woman assembler named Norma Jeane Dougherty (1926-1962). On June 26, 1945, Norma Jeane posed for U.S. Army photographer, David Conover. The photo session resulted in a screen test and the defense plant model later went on to fame as Marilyn Monroe. Northrop purchased the Radioplane Company in 1952.  

A Look Back at Unpiloted Vehicles 

The USA and Britain created the first aircraft with no crew during World War I (1914-1918). Their attempts proved successful, yet they did not use their pilotless vehicles during the war.  

The Vietnam War (1955-1975) found drones heavily deployed for reconnaissance. Drone roles expanded from the OQ’s target and training practice activities to combat decoys, missile launches against fixed targets, and the dropping of leaflets associated with psychological warfare. Beginning with the late 1970s, unpiloted aerial technology grew in endurance, height, and sophistication, even harnessing the sun to power extended flights. Today, drones monitor climate change, deliver products, and use film and photography to meet an array of needs, such as natural disaster search operations. Surveillance over unsafe areas, especially following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, tops the list of drone activities. Drones also carry with them some level of controversy due to their questionable weaponry-based use.  

The Air Zoo’s Radioplane OQ-2A Drone

Our target drone is one of 15,000 produced during WWII. Mr. and Mrs. Richard Oliver gifted the OQ-2A drone to the Air Zoo in 2000. Today, it can be seen suspended over the Restoration Center at the Flight Discovery Center.