UAV Exhibit at the National Air and Space Museum

It's all about expectations, I suppose, but even knowing that I have to admit disappointment.  We just got back from a visit to the National Air and Space Museum on the mall in Washington DC.  If you have never been there, you really need to go.  This isn't about the museum in general--we have been there many times.  One reason I wanted to go this time was to see the UAV exhibit.  Other than one small display case with an RQ-14A Dragon Eye, what you see in the photo above is pretty much it.  In hindsight, I can't say what I expected other than "more."  More information, more artifacts (maybe a sensor pod or two), more history.  To add insult to my self-imposed injury (It's about expectations, remember?), the gallery beneath the hanging UAVs was closed--no chance of getting  photos from different angles.

So, what is the point of this post?  One, misery loves company, so please feel bad with me.  Two, if you happen to be planning a trip mainly to see this exhibit, you might want to hold off.

Here's a LINK that gives info on the UAVs in the exhibit.  My photos aren't all that great, but here are a few more:


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  • @John-- I think that's pretty neat that you flew the very airframe hanging in the Smithsonian.  Any reason that you know of that this particular one was donated to the museum (other than its good looks)?

  • I saw this exhibit a couple months ago and was also disappointed.  What was most frustrating were that you couldn't walk around under the UAVs at all, so your viewing angle was very limited, and they had almost no displays up with any more information about the craft than their types.  It was very cool to see some of the UAVs live and get a better idea of their scale, but it just felt like a very last minute, unfinished thing, almost like a storage space that just happened to be visible.  I actually thought that was what it was at first when I saw it down the hall.

  • The Annex is officially named the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.  It does indeed have more eye candy.  Below is a preview for anyone planning to go some day.  That last shot is the proud father (me) with his AC-130U Spooky Gunship Crew Chief son.

    I could be wrong, but I don't believe there are any UAVs at the Center right now.  I do not recall a Global Hawk or a Reaper (MQ-9).  However, my memory is not what it used to be.  :(

    My take on the two museums:  The museum on the mall has more artifacts along with the full size objects like aircraft and satellites.  It also has more interactive displays.  The Udvar-Hazy Center is basically a huge hangar with almost exclusively full size aircraft.  There are very few display cases and that sort of thing.  The two musuems are really different experiences.






  • Yes, Dulles annex >> downtown.


    Also, if you're touring the area, check out (my old stomping grounds) the Nat'l Cryptographic museum at Ft. Meade (cough: NSA). There's some planes and other interesting "things" as well.


  • A little Navy Aviation trivia...The Pioneer UAV is only aircraft the Navy had that removed its tailhook when it operated from a ship and put it back on when operating from land.

  • Wayne, the Pioneer at the Smithsonian is a full scale airframe.  I flew that exact airframe (159) all over the U.S. and the Mediterranean to include U.N. missions of Bosnia and humanitarian support flights over Albania.  I guarantee you that no Pioneer at sea ever looked as pretty as 159 does in the photo because every landing was a crash landing in a net something broke every time.  But we patched them up as best we could and flew them again.

    The Smithsonian used to have a multimedia display delivering an overview of UAV ops over Desert Storm, but their displays change often.   

    Mikes photo of the control station is actually a Pioneer UAV Ground Control Station (GCS).  It would be cool to see a display showing this old technology compared to new technology.  8086 processers were the brains of the Pioneer GCS and a mechanical plotter (middle) was used for tracking.

  • They all seem to be lacking the control stations. 3692298051?profile=original


  • The Annex is more awesome overall.  So much eye candy there.

  • One can also go to the annex out at Dulles International. Global hawk and MQ-9 (I think...)

  • I am not sure, but the Pioneer on display in the Smithsonian may be one of the 1/2 scale trainers. 


    Davis Monthan AFB museum ( has a few more historical UAVs.  They have the D-21B drone that mounted on the back of the SR-71, the ADM-20C Quail, AQM-34L Compass Bin, Radioplane OQ-3 (the drone built by Marilyn Monroe), Globe KD6G-2, QH-50 DASH, YQM-98A, and the MQM-57 Falconer.

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