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"I'm a farm boy. It's very interesting; you can detect self-starting characteristics in this society and they are strongest among people who have had some kind of rural upbringing and a very impressionable stage."
- Frank Herbert

Automatic Air Mail Plane  
  A pilotless airplane for delivery of cargo.  

The same device that was used in automatic automobiles was placed in airplanes. However, the evil machinations of rival companies caused these new devices to go crazy.

Then the automatic airmail planes changed from peaceful carrier pigeons to predatory hawks. They chased other planes, deliberately colliding with them. They plunged to distraction against mountainsides and skyscrapers.
From The Living Machine, by David H. Keller.
Published by Wonder Stories in 1935
Additional resources -

I can't find an earlier reference to the idea of an autonomous airplane (note that this is different from the idea of an automatic pilot).

As one of the characters remarks "It was a dangerous thing to do. A machine is alright and a brain is alright, but God never intended the two to be hitched together."

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Living Machine
  More Ideas and Technology by David H. Keller
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  Tech news articles related to works by David H. Keller

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