Gyrodyne QH-50D DASH

The Gyrodyne QH-50D DASH (Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter) is a small drone helicopter built by Gyrodyne Company of America for use as a long-range anti-submarine weapon on ships that would otherwise be too small to operate a full-sized helicopter. It remained in production until 1969. Several are still used today for various land-based roles.

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Specifications

Manufacturer: Gyrodyne
Model: QH-50D
C/N: DS-1664
Power Plant: 1 x Boeing T50-BO-8A Turboshaft, 300 HP (224 kW)
Rotor Diameter: 20 feet 0 inches (6.10 meters)
Length: 12 feet 11 inches (3.94 meters)
Height: 9 feet 8.5 inches (2.96 meters)
Disc Area: 314.2 square feet (29.2 square meters)
Empty Weight: 1,154 pounds (524 kilograms)
Maximum Takeoff Weight: 2,285 pounds (1,036 kilograms)
Cruise Speed: 50 knots (58 miles per hour)
Maximum Speed: 80 knots (92 miles per hour)
Range: 71 nautical miles (82 miles, 132 kilometers)
Service Ceiling: 16,400 feet (5,000 meters)
Rate of Climb: 1,800 feet per minute (9.6 meters per second)
Rate of Climb: 1,800 feet per minute (9.6 meters per second)
Armament: 2 Mk.44 or Mk.46 torpedoes
Owner: On Loan From John Kinney

History

DASH was a major part of the United States Navy's Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization (FRAM) program of the late 1950's. FRAM was started because the Soviet Union was building submarines faster than the US could build anti-submarine frigates. Instead of building frigates, the FRAM upgrade series allowed the US to rapidly update by converting older ships that were less useful in modern naval combat. The Navy could upgrade the sonar on World War II era destroyers, but needed a stand-off weapon to attack at the perimeter of the sonar's range. The old destroyers had little room for add-ons such as a full flight deck. The original DASH concept was a light drone helicopter that could release a nuclear depth charge or torpedoes. The aircraft was considered expendable.

DASH's control scheme had two controllers; one on the flight deck, and another in the combat information center. The flight deck controller handled the take-off and landing. The controller in the Combat Information Center (CIC) would fly DASH to the target's location and release weapons using semiautomated controls and radar. The CIC controller could not see the aircraft or its altitude and occasionally lost operational control or situational awareness. Late in the program, there were successful experiments to add a TV camera to the drone. These DASH SNOOPYs were also used as airborne spotters for naval gunfire.

Since it was expendable, DASH used off-the-shelf industrial electronics with no back-ups. The controls were multi-channel analog FM. Over 80% of operational aircraft losses were traced to single-point failures of the electronics. A total of 10% of the loses were from pilot errors, and only 10% of the losses were from engine or airframe failure.

The DASH program was cancelled in 1969. Although low reliability was the official reason, the manufacturer pointed to the expenses of the Vietnam War, and lack of need for anti-submarine capabilithy in that war.