The General Atomics MQ-1 Predator is an American remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) built by General Atomics and used primarily by the United States Air Force (USAF) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Initially conceived in the early 1990s for aerial reconnaissance and forward observation roles, the Predator carries cameras and other sensors but has been modified and upgraded to carry and fire two AGM-114 Hellfire missiles or other munitions. The aircraft, in use since 1995, has seen combat in war in Afghanistan, Pakistan, the NATO intervention in Bosnia, Serbia, Iraq War, Yemen, Libyan civil war, the intervention in Syria, and Somalia.
The USAF describes the Predator as a “Tier II” MALE UAS (medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft system). The UAS consists of four aircraft or “air vehicles” with sensors, a ground control station(GCS), and a primary satellite link communication suite. Powered by a Rotax engine and driven by a propeller, the air vehicle can fly up to 400 nmi (460 mi; 740 km) to a target, loiter overhead for 14 hours, then return to its base.
Following 2001, the RQ-1 Predator became the primary remotely piloted aircraft used for offensive operations by the USAF and the CIA in Afghanistan and the Pakistani tribal areas; it has also been deployed elsewhere. Because offensive uses of the Predator are classified by the US, U.S. military officials have reported an appreciation for the intelligence and reconnaissance-gathering abilities of RPAs but declined to publicly discuss their offensive use.
Civilian applications have included border enforcement and scientific studies, and to monitor wind direction and other characteristics of large forest fires (such as the one that was used by the California Air National Guard in the August 2013 Rim Fire).
- Crew: none on-board
- Length: 27 ft (8.22 m)
- Wingspan: 48.7 ft (14.8 m); MQ-1B Block 10/15: 55.25 ft (16.84 m))
- Height: 6.9 ft (2.1 m)
- Wing area: 123.3 sq ft (11.5 m2)
- Aspect ratio: 19.0
- Empty weight: 1,130 lb (512 kg)
- Loaded weight: 2,250 lb (1,020 kg)
- Max. takeoff weight: 2,250 lb (1,020 kg)
- Powerplant: 1 × Rotax 914F turbocharged four-cylinder engine, 115 hp (86 kW) (4.8 kW redundant/6.4hp)
- Maximum speed: 135 mph (117 knots, 217 km/h)
- Cruise speed: 81–103 mph (70–90 knots, 130–165 km/h)
- Stall speed: 62 mph (54 knots, 100 km/h) dependent on aircraft weight
- Range: 675 nmi (675 mi or 1,100 km)
- Endurance: 24 hours
- Service ceiling: 25,000 ft (7,620 m)
- Hardpoints: 2 and provisions to carry combinations of:
- AN/AAS-52 Multi-Spectral Targeting System
- AN/ZPQ-1 Synthetic Aperture Radar (early airframes only)