The CL-89 was a drone developed by Canada in the early 1960s and which was to see service with the Canadians, West Germans and British. It first saw active service in 1969 and was known in British service as the MIDGE (Military Intelligence and Data Gathering Equipment). In Royal Artillery service Midge was operated by a troop in a divisional locating battery. This troop had two launchers, all the facilities for processing and analysing imagery and for repair and servicing of the aircraft. The troop comprised two officers and about 70 soldiers. Tasking was through the artillery intelligence cell at divisional HQ and the primary use was to confirm suspected enemy locations, particularly hostile artillery. In UK service Midge replaced the Northrop Radioplane SD-1, known in service as “Observer”, and was replaced in turn by Phoenix. Midge was used operationally in Kuwait in 1991, with some effect especially when combined with artillery raids.
These early electronic devices were rather delicate and needed to avoid prolonged exposure to the elements, so specialist covers were developed to keep rain and dirt off the drone. Today we are looking at an example of a drone cover from 1974, that I am reliably informed was for use with the MIDGE. The cover is made of vinyl and is about eight feet in length:
It has reinforced and waterproofed seams and large panels of velcro within the help secure it around the drone. It is shaped to be squared off at one end:
And more pointed at the other end, to reflect the contours of the drone:
The cover’s purpose, a date of 1974 and an NSN number are stencilled onto the side in black:
This cover is actually a sealed pattern example. This means it was sent to the manufacturer to show what a finished cover should look like and to allow them to copy it exactly to ensure consistency. To this end it has a cloth printed tag attached:
This is certainly one of the odder items in my collection! It was however very cheap and one imagines very few have survived to this day. The chances of ever owning the drone and having the space to keep one are pretty remote, but you never know…