RQ-1 / MQ-1 PredatorA US Air Force
MQ-1 armed with AGM-114 Hellfire
missilesRoleRemote piloted aircraft/unmanned aerial vehicle
National originUnited StatesManufacturerGeneral Atomics Aeronautical Systems
First flight3 July 1994IntroductionJuly 1995Retired9 March 2018
StatusRetiredPrimary usersUnited States Air Force
- Italian Air Force
- Turkish Air Force
- Royal Moroccan Air Force
Produced1995–presentNumber built360 (285 RQ-1, 75 MQ-1)
Program costUS$2.38 billion (2011)
Unit costUS$4.03 million (2010)
Developed fromGeneral Atomics GNAT
VariantsGeneral Atomics MQ-1C Gray Eagle
Developed intoGeneral Atomics MQ-9 Reaper
The General Atomics MQ-1 Predator
is an American remotely piloted aircraft
(RPA) built by General Atomics
that was used primarily by the United States Air Force
(USAF) and Central Intelligence Agency
(CIA). Initially conceived in the early 1990's for aerial reconnaissance
and forward observation roles, the Predator carries cameras and other sensors. It was modified and upgraded to carry and fire two AGM-114 Hellfire missiles
or other munitions. The aircraft entered service in 1995, and saw combat in the war in Afghanistan
, the NATO intervention in Bosnia
, the Iraq War
, the 2011 Libyan civil war
, the 2014 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
; 740 km
) to a target, loiter overhead for 14 hours, then return to its base.
Since after 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 U.S.
, 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.
The United States retired the Predator in 2018.
Civilian applications for drones have included border enforcement and scientific studies, and to monitor wind direction and other characteristics of large forest fires (such as the drone that was used by the California Air National Guard
in the August 2013 Rim Fire