In 1961 Ryan Aircraft looked at alternate means of ground launching their Firebee UAvs. A number of companies put forward ideas for various catapults. The SDASM Flickr account has illustrations of a number of the concept put forward. One of them was Brodie Rig, similar to the suspended runway I posted about a few weeks ago. Sadly details on this and the other studies is very limited… basically the date and the illustrations. The Brodie rig has what appears to be a winch a tthe end, indicating that the drone would have been accelerated not only by its jet engine but also the rig itself, getting it up to flight speed ASAP. Whether it would be able to be recovered with the rig at the end of the mission is difficult to determine, but doing so would require a definite level of precise flying that I’m not sure the Firebee would have been able to attain in 1961.
See somewhat higher rez version of this illustration HERE.