Gyrodyne QH-50C (Drone) DSN 3

Gyrodyne Co. of America

In 1946 Peter Papadokus formed the Gyrodyne Company of America to develop a rotorcraft that had the qualities of both a fixed‑wing aircraft and a rotorcraft. The Gyrodyne Rotorcycle was built to compete for a U.S. Navy contract for a small, portable helicopter capable of carrying one man and his equipment over a short distance. It could be folded into a small package that could be air‑dropped and assembled by one man under combat conditions. The fuselage was an aluminum tubular structure to which were attached the engine, tricycle landing gear, and all necessary equipment. The program terminated after some 15 XRON and YRON test helicopters were built and evaluated by the Navy and Marine Corps.

A derivative of the Rotorcycle was transformed into a remote­-controlled torpedo craft for the Navy's DASH (Drone Antisub­marine Helicopter) program. The original Porsche reciprocating engine was replaced by a small Boeing turbine in the DSN‑1/QH‑50 and skid land­ing gear fitted so that it could take off and land from the deck of a ship. Over 600 Gyrodyne QH-50Cs were built for the U.S. Navy, mainly in the 1960s.

The unusual co-axial rotor system provided torque cancellation in a very compact design, which is especially important on shipboard. During a DASH mission the QH‑50 drone was "piloted" during takeoff and landing by the destroyer's DASH officer from a central console adjacent to the destroyer's flight deck. Control was transferred after takeoff to an officer in the ship's Combat Information Center, who "flew" the QH‑50 by radar to the suspected location of the enemy submarine, as indicated by the destroyer's sonar, and dropped its payload of one Mk‑46 or two Mk‑44 torpedoes. Effective range was thus limited to the destroyer's radar horizon. Ideally, the drone would then be flown back and recovered aboard the destroyer, but many of the QH‑50s were lost during this phase of the mission. This was generally due either to the sudden change in the configuration of the helicopter after the payload was dropped, or simply to the inexperience of the DASH officer.

Most QH‑50s were withdrawn from service long before their destroyer platforms, although some were used as unmanned reconnaissance drones in the Vietnam War, and a few were used into the early 1980s as target drones for programs such as the U.S. Navy's Submarine Air Defense (SUBAD) missile. Over 500 QH‑50s in four different variants were built for the U.S. Navy with several being delivered for service with the Japanese Maritime Self‑Defense Force. A few QH‑50C drones were still used in the United States as targets in the early 1980s.

The GH‑50C on display was manufactured October 5, 1964, and is serial no. DS‑1190. The number on the tail is DS‑1082.

Acquisition Source: National Naval Aviation Museum loan

Aircraft Specifications

Rotor Diameter: 
20 ft.
Fuselage Length: 
12 ft., 11 inch.
Maximum Speed: 
92 mph.
Cruise Speed: 
58 mph.
9 ft., 6 inch.
Empty Weight: 
1,154 lbs.
Gross Weight: 
2,285 lbs.
300 h.p. Boeing T50 B08A Turbine