By Liana Jacob
A VIDEO showing what could be the first manned drone being tested by the United States Army around sixty years ago has been revealed.
While manned drones have just started to be constructed by inventors once again, this incredible video shows the 1950’s pilot of the direct-lift rotor aircraft Hiller VZ-1 Pawnee perched on the platform, ascending above the ground while calmly navigating it in circular motions.
During an interview with the tester, he explains that it was very easy to use it and to navigate it he needed to ‘shift his weight’ using his feet to control the aircraft.
During that time, it was considered near-miraculous to build a flying platform. The interviewer described the feat by saying: “This is quite a machine you have here, I suppose you’ve come closer than anyone to operating a flying carpet.”
The Hiller VZ-1 Pawnee was used successfully by the US Army for the first time on November 20, 1957 and was first developed in 1953 under an Office of Naval Research (ONR) contract to Hiller Aircraft. It gains lift by powering a rotor or “fan”, much like present-day drones.
The Hiller Aircraft was founded in 1942 as Hiller Industries by a pioneering developer, Stanley Hiller, who was only 17 years old at the time, to develop helicopters for the US Army.
Despite looking professional on the aircraft, the pilot in the video had only been testing it for three and a half hours prior to the interview. While the machine looks impressive, it was not commissioned by the US military and the project was shelved.
Two of the six prototypes are known to survive; both being ONR 1031-A-1 models.