A Brief History of Unmanned Aircraft

From bomb-bearing balloons to the Global Hawk

An MQ-1 Predator over a mountain range in Nevada. (MSgt Scott Reed)

RQ-1 Predator

(USAF Photo: Senior Airman Julianne Showalter)

The RQ-1 Predator, probably the best-known modern UAV, made its first test flight in 1994. Produced by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems—based on a design by Abraham Karem, a former engineering officer for the Israeli Air Force—it was designed for “long loiter” reconnaissance work. The RQ-1 has evolved, and today its variants patrol the U.S.-Mexico border, collect air samples for scientific research, and unleash Hellfire air-to-ground missiles on military targets.

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