The MQ-1 Predator is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) designed and built by General Atomics Corporation in San Diego, Calif. At the time of its introduction in 1995, Predator's technology and role was limited to surveillance and intelligence-gathering missions for the Central Intelligence Agency. Beginning in 2001, Predator evolved into an offensive "Hunt and Kill" weapon deployed by the U.S. Air Force. The Predator was the principle combat UAV in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The MQ-9 Reaper UAV concept evolved from plans for a "Predator B" variant of the original Predator. By the time the first Reaper was unveiled by General Atomics in 2001, however, it shared relatively few design specifications with the Predator; essentially it is a completely different UAV.
The Predator is powered by a two-cycle, four-cylinder Rotax engine that produces 115 horsepower. It is basically the same piston engine Rotax produces for large civilian snowmobiles. Reaper is powered by a 900-horsepower Honeywell TPE331-10 turbo-prop engine.
Predator has a cruise speed of 81 to 103 mph and a range of 2,000 miles. At 172 to 195 mph, Reaper's cruise speed is nearly twice Predator's with a range of 3,200 miles. Both UAV's have a normal service ceiling of 25,000 feet but Reaper has a maximum operational altitude of 50,000 feet.
The Predator is equipped with two weapon stations and can carry a combination of two Hellfire missiles, four small Stinger missiles and six Griffin air-to-air missiles. The Reaper's seven weapon stations can carry a combination of up to 14 Hellfire missiles, two 500-pound laser-guided Paveway bombs and 500-pound Joint Direct Attack Munitions bombs.
Predator has a wingspan of 48.7 feet and an overall length of 27 feet. Its maximum takeoff weight is 2,250 lbs. Reaper's wingspan measures 66 feet. Overall length is 36 feet, and its maximum takeoff weight is 10,500 lbs.
Gus Stephens has written about aviation, automotive and home technology for 15 years. His articles have appeared in major print outlets such as "Popular Mechanics" and "Invention & Technology." Along the way, Gus earned a Bachelor of Arts in communications. If it flies, drives or just sits on your desk and blinks, he's probably fixed it.