A drone designed and built in San Diego that revolutionized aerial surveillance and warfare turns 25 this month.
The first model in General Atomics‘ Predator series made its initial flight in July 1994 and became operational with the U.S. military in 1995.
More than 320 of the original Predator A drones were built before their production ended in 2011. Those remotely piloted aircraft have flown close to 141,000 missions and over two million total flight hours.
The Predators started a revolution in military tactics because they could provide continuous surveillance and fire missiles while their pilots remained safe at an airbase. Predators located Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan and went on to track and kill scores of terrorist leaders.
As new models of the Predator series were developed, speed and endurance increased, with the latest versions able to fly for 14 hours at a maximum speed of 300 mph.
“Our Predator-series has evolved over the past 25 years into MQ-9 and Gray Eagle, which are the most combat-proven RPA in the world,” said Linden Blue, CEO of General Atomics’ aeronautical systems division.
The newest version of the series, the MQ-9B SkyGuardian, will be able to operate alongside commercial aircraft in the national airspace.
“From Predator A, to Predator B, Gray Eagle, Avenger, and their various mission configurations, our aircraft and payload systems continue to address changing mission requirements for U.S. and Allied militaries and civilian users,” said David R. Alexander, president of the division.
The San Diego-based company continues to design and build the Predator series at is facilities in Poway.