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Northrop (Radioplane) SD-1/MQM-57 Falconer

In 1955, Radioplane developed the Model RP-71 Falconer as a derivative of the OQ-19/MQM-33 series of target drones. The drone was launched by a solid rocket booster from a zero-length launcher, and was recovered by parachute. The RP-71 had onboard still picture (and optional TV) cameras, and was used by the U.S. Army as the surveillance drone of the AN/USD-1 system. The drone itself was officially designated OA-2343/USD-1, but was usually referred to as either AN/USD-1 (although this was really the designation of the whole drone surveillance system, including ground equipment) or SD-1 (as an abbreviation of AN/USD-1, with SD conveniently being interpreted as "Surveillance Drone"). Series production of the SD-1 for the U.S. Army started in 1959.

Photo: via Ordway/Wakeford
SD-1 (MQM-57A/B) (exact model unknown)

Equipment of the SD-1 included a KS-54 or KS-61 camera system (including a KA-39A or KA-30 still picture camera, respectively), flare ejectors, and an AN/DPN-32 (later AN/DPN-62(V)) radar beacon. The SD-1 was tracked on the ground using the AN/MPQ-29 radar system. There were two different models of the SD-1 (one for the AN/USD-1A system, and one for the AN/USD-1B), which differed slightly in the electronic guidance equipment. The AN/USD-1A drone used an R-943/USD-1A receiver, while the AN/USD-1B had an R-1220/USD-1B receiver and a KY-500/USD-1B decoder.

Photo: Ben Rogers, Fly Vintage
SD-1 (MQM-57A/B) (exact model unknown)

In June 1963, the RP-71 drones of the AN/USD-1A and AN/USD-1B surveillance systems were designated as MQM-57A and MQM-57B, respectively. The MQM-57 remained in service until the mid-1970s, and a total of about 1500 MQM-57s of all versions were built by Northrop Ventura (formerly Radioplane).


Note: Data given by several sources show slight variations. Figures given below may therefore be inaccurate!

Data for MQM-57A/B:

Length4.06 m (13 ft 4 in)
Wingspan3.50 m (11 ft 6 in)
Height0.79 m (2 ft 7 in)
Weight195 kg (430 lb)
Speed300 km/h (185 mph)
Ceiling4600 m (15000 ft)
Endurance40 min.
Range160 km (100 miles)
PropulsionMcCulloch O-100-1 piston engine; 54 kW (72 hp)

Main Sources

[1] Frederick I. Ordway III, Ronald C. Wakeford: "International Missile and Spacecraft Guide", McGraw-Hill, 1960
[2] Kenneth Munson: "World Unmanned Aircraft", Jane's, 1988
[3] R.T. Pretty, D.H.R. Archer (eds.): "Jane's Weapon Systems 1972-73", Jane's, 1973

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Last Updated: 20 November 2007