P.Hare Royal Aircraft Factory (Putnam)
Conceived late in 1916, this was a radio-controlled, pilotless aeroplane intended both for defence against Zeppelins and as a flying bomb. In the former role it was planned that it would be controlled from the ground, but in the latter role control from an accompanying manned aeroplane was also considered. To disguise its intended purpose it was always referred to as the Aerial Target.
Its wireless apparatus was designed by Capt Archibald M Low of the RFC's wireless unit at Feltham, whose idea it was. His attempt to build the aeroplane himself, largely from spare parts, had met with no success, and the assistance of the Royal Aircraft Factory had therefore been requested. The project was undertaken by Henry Folland, although much of the detail work was drawn by his assistant, H E Preston. The Farnborough design was a small shoulder-wing monoplane powered by a two-cylinder ABC Gnat of 35hp, with numerous radio aerials running vertically down the fuselage sides and chordwise across the wings. In the interests of simplicity, lateral control was by wing warping, and generous dihedral ensured lateral stability.
Six examples, A8957-A8962, were constructed, the first being delivered to RFC Northolt, where the trials were to take place, on 5 June 1917. The intention was that the machine should be trimmed to take off and climb away to a reasonable height before radio control was attempted. Extensive windtunnel tests on models had indicated what the necessary tailplane incidence should be, but the first flight, on 6 July, consisted of an almost vertical climb away from the launching rail, followed by the inevitable stall and consequent crash, before the radio control system could take effect. It was clear that the still imperfectly understood aerodynamic differences between scale models and full-sized aeroplanes had resulted in insufficient tailplane incidence.
A second example was tested on 25 July but failed to take off, merely running along the ground until its undercarriage finally collapsed, the tailplane adjustment having been somewhat overcorrected. A third attempt, with the tailplane finally set at the correct angle, was made three days later, but unfortunately resulted in yet another crash when the engine failed just after take-off. Although damage was confined to a broken propeller and some easily repaired undercarriage components, official interest in the project appears to have diminished and no further trials are recorded as having taken place, although the project was resurrected briefly in the early 1920s.
One example was later converted to a manned aeroplane by No 3 (Western) Aircraft Depot at Bristol, and was fitted with a wheeled undercarriage and ailerons. As a rebuilt aircraft it was allotted a serial number from a batch allocated for that purpose. It received the number B8962, with numerals similar to those of its original, uncertain identity, and this has caused much ill-founded conjecture among latter-day historians.
By 1934 it had been disposed of, and was owned by Mr Ron Shelley of Billericay, but it was broken up without appearing on the civil register.
span 22ft 0in; length 20ft 4in; height 5ft 10 1/2in;
chord 5ft 2in; incidence 6°; dihedral 5°.