Derek Gregory’s latest blog post The radio-controlled television plane, discusses a truly extraordinary proposal first made in 1924 and then republished in 1931.
…the military operation of a ‘radio-controlled television plane’, directed by radio and navigated using ‘electric eyes’ that would enable ‘the control operator, although 50, 100 or possibly 500 miles away, [to] see exactly what goes on around the plane, just the same as if he himself were seated in the cockpit; with the further advantage that, sitting before a screen, he can scan six directions all at once, which no human aviator can do.
See the crazy illustration he dug up:
What makes this additionally remarkable is that the article was by Hugo Gernsback (1884-1967), the well-known science fiction writer and magazine publisher. Gernsback is the American sf figure; as Derek notes the Hugo award (the Oscar of the sf world) is named after him. He also coined the word “scientifiction” and then “science fiction” itself in 1929. He published the first true sf magazine of the so-called “Golden Age” of science fiction, namely Amazing stories, in 1926.
Gernsback was himself awarded the Hugo in 1960 as the “father of science fiction.”
As a member of sf fandom in Britain in the early 1980s I can say that Gernsback was still a key figure in the history of sf among fans. This is what brings Derek’s story home to me personally. That Gernsback was a key figure in the long history of unmanned aircraft is not out of character, although the story Derek discusses is incredible (see the other image of Gernsback wearing remote control goggles, or even Googles).
If you’ve ever read any books by E.E. “Doc” Smith, an author I believe he discovered, which feature noble Randians deploying planetary weaponry against insidious aliens etc etc, you’ll have seen this intersection of the military, the American Way, machismo, and technology up close.
You can read more about Gernsback at the SF Encylopedia, from which I’ve drawn some information above.