This rare film shows Project Hermit, the U.S. Army’s developmental program. In this program war-weary and radio controlled B-17 Flying Fortress Bombers were flown into ground targets with the intent to develop aircraft that could be used against fortified targets, especially German submarine pens and Japanese cave systems.
At the 2:10 mark, a pilotless B-17 is shown with its various remote control systems displayed. At 2:49, the aircraft takes off and control is turned over to an airborne B-17. A ground station takes control from about 12 miles from the target, and at 3:25 the B-17 crashes directly into the ground at 200 mph.
The technology is shown in the film ended up adopted into Project Aphrodite where patched up planes including B-17s and B-24s were modified with radio controls, and in some cases television cameras. They were then stuffed to the brim, with high explosives and flown into targets in Occupied France and Europe with mixed but often disappointing.
The U.S. Navy also developed pilotless aircraft including the TDR-1 Torpedo Drone, which used a TV camera system for visual guidance. The Navy’s counterpart, called Operation Anvil, also proved unsuccessful and was canceled after only two missions.
Famously, the first mission resulted in the death of Lt. Joseph Kennedy, Jr., the brother of future President John F. Kennedy, as well as his co-pilot Bud Wiley.