Science & Technology
Revealed: the CIA's nuclear-powered bird drone
By T.K. Randall
August 4, 2020 · 1 comment
Would this have really tricked the Soviets ? Image Credit: CIA Archives
Newly declassified CIA documents have revealed details of a secretive Cold War spy drone that looked like a bird.
Known as Project Aquiline, the unusual device served as a precursor to today's Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and was first conceived in the 1960s at a time when the United States was eager to find effective new ways to spy on the activities of the Soviet Union without risking its pilots.
The bird-like, propeller-driven drone was designed to look like a soaring bird from a distance, which would have helped it to evade detection while flying reconnaissance over the USSR.
As many as five prototypes were constructed and the drone could be equipped with everything from infra-red cameras to radio receivers and eavesdropping devices.
According to declassified CIA files, it was also capable of dropping equipment at predetermined locations that could later be picked up by US agents operating in the field - James Bond style.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the project was the fact that there were even plans to equip the drone with a nuclear power supply, despite the obvious safety concerns.
"It will have vast utility for over-water applications; its radiation hazards will be so low as to permit consideration of its use for over-land missions," the report reads.
The nuclear-powered drone was estimated to be capable of operating non-stop for 120 days.
Ultimately, however, the project ended up being canned due to disagreements over its rising costs.
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