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The Predator Drone: The World’s Most Hated Aircraft?

Written by on Friday, August 31st, 2012

In the world of unmanned aerial vehicles, there’s one that stands out: the Predator drone. Without question, the Predator is the most famous drone in the USAF’s arsenal. Coincidentally, it’s also the most infamous. What is it about this simple UAV that causes people to have such a love-hate reaction to it?

Before we dive into the debate, let’s focus on the basics. The General Atomics MQ-1 Predator is a long-endurance, medium-altitude drone that was originally designed for surveillance and reconnaissance missions. Powered by a single propeller, the Predator drone is capable of flying 400 nautical miles to a location and then loiter overhead for 14 hours before returning to base.

Much of the Predator’s success stems from the fact that it has an extremely efficient design. It’s relatively small with a 27-foot length and a 48.7-foot wingspan. That makes it light enough to get impressive mileage, but big enough to carry a wide array of heavy, complicated sensors.

Predators performed so admirably in the field that the USAF decided to strap a few munitions to it and upgrade the eye-in-the-sky to a precision assault aircraft. Starting around the turn of the new millennium, Predators flew off the production line with reinforced wings and pylons for Hellfire missiles. The sensors also came equipped with a laser designator that would allow pilots to zero-in on targets.

The Central Intelligence Agency has been using drones – especially Predators – since 2004 as a part of the War on Terrorism. The success of this campaign is going to depend order cialis pills entirely on who you ask. The CIA has argued that strikes conducted since May 2010 have killed more than 600 militants without inflicting any civilian casualties. Third-party investigators and think tanks, however, estimate that approximately 20% of all casualties were civilians.

I’m not trying to drag you into the whole debate over the legitimacy of drone attacks – but what I am trying to do is address the controversy surrounding Predator drones. Regardless of which group has the correct statistic, the fact of the matter is that Predator drones are under political fire. It’s kind of like the blowback that happens whenever some lunatic goes on a shooting spree. People are furious about the guy pulling the trigger, but they also take out some of their anger on guns and rally for stricter gun control laws. Protestors in the Middle East and the US have taken to the streets with signs.

It’s tricky trying to balance widespread reaction with advancing drone technology. On the one hand, drones have completely revolutionized warfare by providing a more efficient and safer way to patrol the skies. On the other hand, the government’s alleged misuse of drones is not painting a very pretty picture of this new technology. What good is UAV technology if you make the world hate it? Should we think of Predator drones as trailblazers that are forcing people to change what they think about warfare? Or will they become the poster-drone for government abuse of power?

If you want advice about the world of military aviation, there’s no better people to turn to than men and women who have sat in the cockpit and flown some of the world’s most advanced aircraft. With over 50 current and ex-warfighters on call, Strike Fighter Consulting Inc. can give you access to up-to-date, first-hand technical and tactical expertise.

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