The Dorand AR series was developed for the French air service to replace the outmoded, two-seat Farman F.40 observation aircraft, a "pusher" engined design that had appeared in 1915 and went on to staff numerous air services around the world. However, the technology had formally met its match within the ever-evolving nature of war that was World War 1 and operational service was limited to just over a year before thought was given to formulating a successor aircraft. Thus came the "Dorand AR" ("Avion de Reconnaissance 1"), developed by French Captain Georges Lepere, which first took flight in September of 1916 and, after a short period of evaluation, was formally accepted into service with the French Air Force in April of 1917. The AR maintained an origin dating back to the original Dorand DO.1 of 1914. The aircraft received its formal designation from the Lieutenant Colonel (Dorand) heading up the state-operated Section Technique de l'Aeronautique at the time.
All told, the AR.1 was of a most basic design characterized by her wide-spanning biplane wing arrangement. The wings were dual-bay with parallel struts, were staggered to the rear in their placement, and operated via a network of cables. The lower wing assembly was connected to the fuselage indirectly by way of heavy duty struts. The fuselage sported slab siding and was general boxy in nature with the engine held in a compartment towards the front of the design and the empennage at the rear. The aircraft type was crewed by two personnel made up of the pilot and an observer with the former seated aft of the engine and the latter seated under and aft of the upper wing assembly in tandem, both cockpits being "open air" emplacements. The aircraft measured a wingspan of over 13 meters with a running length of 9 meters. Loaded weight was 1,250 kilograms. Power (for the base AR.1 production model - see variants) was supplied by a Renault 8 Bd V-type engine delivering 190 horsepower and provided a maximum speed of 153 kilometers per hour and a flying time of up to 3 hours. The listed service ceiling was in the vicinity of 5,500 meters. The engine powered a two-bladed wooden propeller system. The empennage sported a single vertical tail fin as well as two, all-surface moving horizontal tail planes. The undercarriage was fixed in place and consisted of two single-wheeled landing gear legs and a tail skid for basic ground support.
The pilot managed a single fixed, forward-firing .303 caliber Vickers type machine gun while the observer was afforded a trainable Lewis machine gun in either a single- or dual-gun mounting. The forward gun could be used to counter enemy aircraft or ground targets of opportunity while the rear gun was designed to protect the aircraft's vital rear quadrant from encroaching enemy aircraft. In addition to machine gun armament, the AR could be outfitted with up to 80 kilograms of ordnance, all held internally. The true nature of the AR was in its reconnaissance and observation role - not intended as a gunnery or dedicated bombing platform.
The Dorand design existed in several notable variants beginning with the initial production form designated simply as the AR.1. These were completed with the Renault 8 Bd series engines of 190 horsepower. The ARL.1 designation marked AR.1 production models revised to fit the Lorraine-Dietricj series engines of 185 horsepower. The second major production mark was the improved AR.2 which fielded a Renault 8 Gdy series engine of 200 horsepower, wing-mounted radiators (as opposed to front-mounted) and smaller-area wings. Similar to the ARL.1 conversion, the ARL.2 was nothing more than a revised AR.2 with a Lorraine-Dietrich engine of 240 horsepower.
The first Dorand AR production models reached the Western Front skies in early 1917 and would go on to form no fewer than thirteen French air service groups. The type was also fielded in number across five additional French squadrons along the Italian Front. In practice, the rather-limited Dorand AR design proved quite favorable for those called upon to fly her. She exhibited adequate qualities and proved reliable but generally suffered in overall performance due to the changing technology of war. By the end of her tenure, she was found to be much outclassed by more modern offerings from both sides of the conflict. The Dorand AR also staffed the inventory of the American Expeditionary Force by December of 1917, these fighting over the Western Front well into 1918 and purchased in over 100 examples to shore up the American's lack of available aircraft. The type was not very popular with the Yanks and ultimately developed the nickname of "Antique Rattletrap" to describe the type. American Dorand ARs were then relegated to the training of incoming American pilots when more suitable observation mounts became available.
Operators of the AR aside from France and the United States included Algeria, Greece and Serbia. The Kingdom of Serbia was able to stock four Dorand AR squadrons beginning in April of 1918.