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About this collection

The Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Navigation called upon the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) to develop a radio beacon system to aid ship navigation in fog and rough weather. Between 1913 and 1915, Frederick A. Kolster developed a radio direction finder, or radio compass, which improved upon an original Italian design from 1907. It enabled a ship to establish its position by determining with high accuracy the direction of sending station signals. The radio compass was the forerunner of modern aviation landing systems. While the radio compass was useful for locating a radio signal source, when Federal aviation added passengers to its mail flights and extended its operations, it required greater safeguards than the compass could provide. [From: Measures for Progress by R.C. Cochrane, pp. 142, 294]. In 1928, NBS developed the tuned reed course indicator used with a radio beacon which was designed to give an aircraft pilot a visible indication of whether he was on course as he approached an airfield, and if not, which way to turn. Also, around that time, NBS conducted research and development of blind landing systems such as the fog glidometer and runway localizer. The Navigation Research Photographic Collection features these instruments.

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