The Man Who Invented the Predator

Before he designed the world’s most feared drone, Abraham Karem was just trying to get a robot to stay in the air

An MQ-9 Reaper in its lair at Balad, Iraq, 2008. A bigger, badder Predator, the MQ-9 has a turboprop engine and Y-shaped tail and can carry almost 4,000 pounds of ordnance. (USAF)
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Martin Waide says that Karem looked at the helicopter industry and saw opportunities to improve performance—in efficiency, noise reduction, range, payload. “And with no previous build experience, [he] set about in short order and built the A160, which did indeed demonstrate all those things.”

Karem says those who think the secret to the Predator’s success was endurance should think again. What he brought to UAVs, he says, was a refusal to treat them—as others had—like models or target drones, which aren’t built to last, and therefore aren’t built to be reliable. He designed the Albatross, Amber, Gnat-750, and Predator to fly hundreds of hours without a crash. He adds “I’m not a genius, but I am probably one of the best aircraft designers in the world today.”

Author Richard Whittle is writing a book on the Predator for Henry Holt and Company.


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