1. System Overview

The Predator system is composed of three parts: the air vehicle with its associated sensors and communications equipment, the ground control station (GCS), and the product or data dissemination system. The air vehicle is a mid-wing monoplane with a slender fuselage housing the payload and fuel, a high aspect ratio wing, and inverted-V tails (see Figure 1). The air vehicle is powered by a four cylinder Rotax engine that requires 100 octane aviation gas. The sensors include an electro-optic/infrared (EO/IR) Versatron Skyball Model 18 with a zoom lens and a spotter lens, and a Westinghouse 783R234 synthetic aperture radar (SAR). The ground control station consists of a pilot position and a payload operator position which are interchangeable, a Data Exploitation, Mission Planning and Communications (DEMPC) position where imagery is annotated and initially exploited, and a SAR workstation (see Figure 2). The GCS is housed in a 30 ft x 8 ft x 8 ft commercial van. The current data dissemination is through the TROJAN SPIRIT II (TS II), a Special Compartmented Information (SCI) satellite communications (SATCOM) system which allows transmission and receipt of secure voice and National Imagery Transmission Format (NITF) imagery data (see Figure 3). The TS II physically consists of two High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs) and two trailer-mounted SATCOM antennas.

a. Command Relationships

USACOM is assigned combatant command (COCOM) of all DoD operational Predator assets. Operational control (OPCON) of Predator in CONUS is the responsibility of Air Combat Command (ACC), USACOM's Air Force component. ACC will assign these assets to the Air Warfare Center. OPCON of Predator when deployed transfers to the theater Commander-in-Chief (CINC) in the supported area of responsibility (AOR).

b. Technical Characteristics

The baseline Predator system consists of four air vehicles with associated sensors and communications equipment, the GCS, and the TS II communications system along with assorted ground support equipment systems. The technical characteristics of the air vehicle and the ground control system are provided in the General Atomics - Aeronautical Systems Incorporated operating manual (see Annex A). Technical characteristics of the TS II are found in the operating manual for that system published by the US Army. To provide a NRT feed of Predator video to a number of theater users simultaneously, the dissemination system provided by the TS II has been augmented by various direct broadcast communications systems such as the Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) and the Joint Broadcast System (JBS) (see Figure 4), whose technical characteristics are described in their respective operating manuals. If the TS II is the only communications terminal available, the video can be passed through the TS II switch at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, to the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System (JWICS) for dissemination to theater and CONUS users equipped with JWICS terminals (See Figure 5). The most recent deployments of the Predator system to USEUCOM were augmented by a "Rapid Exploitation and Dissemination (RED) Cell" (the RED Cell is an European theater innovation which is not part of the baseline Predator system nor are VSAT, JBS, or JWICS). The RED Cell, which was headed by theater-based personnel, was comprised of selected imagery analysts housed in a separate shelter adjacent to the GCS. The RED Cell coordinated specific target details with Predator mission planners, provided Initial Photographic Interpretation Reports (IPIRs) with the in-theater Joint Analysis Center (JAC) analysts, provided "play-by-play" narration of the NRT video, and conducted the initial scanning of "stills" into the Joint Deployable Intelligence Support System (JDISS) to the JAC for dissemination and archiving. The goal of the RED Cell augmentation was to provide responsive service and quality video/still imagery products to the in-theater user. As responsibility for exploitation and dissemination of imagery belongs to the theater commander, the RED Cell represents just one concept to ensure timely dissemination of intelligence within theater.

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Predator System

4 Air Vehicles
Theater Deployable Communications
65 Trained Personnel


 Vehicle Size and Weight

Wing Span: 14.8m (48.7 ft)
Fuselage length: 8.1m (26.7 ft)
Fuselage width: 1.1m (3.7 ft)
Empty weight: 351 kg (773 lbs)
Max Gross for Takeoff: > 851kg (1873 lbs)*
Fuel Weight & capacity: 295 kg (650lbs/108gals)*

*The planned operational weight of the vehicle has increased as a result of
added payload, to as high as 2,360lbs resulting in reduced performance
capabilities and the need to fly at less than maximum fuel load.

 Sensors SAR: 1 ft IPR, Swath Width Approx. 800 m
(Simultaneous Dual Carriage)
 Deployment  5 C-130s or 2 C-141 sorties are needed to transport the physical
"Predator System".
(additional transport is required for personnel and equipment spares)




(EO/IR/SAR/Ku Band)

Operational Radius

Loiter Time

Operational Cruise Speed

40+ hours sortie at 15,000 ft MSL


24+ Hours at Operational Radius (EO/IR Only)

approx. 63 kts

16-20 hours sortie at 13,000 ft MSL

200-300 nm

8-10 Hours (EO/IR/SR With Ku Band) SATCOM and parachute

60-65 kts


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Figure 4 - NOMAD ENDEAVOR - JBS Dissemination

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c. Performance Characteristics

The specific mission performance of the Predator depends upon several factors such as altitude, length of time at dash speed, cruise speed, and variations in payloads. Nominal performance characteristics such as radius of action, endurance, and climb rate may be used for mission planning. Detachment Liaison Officers, who are normally assigned to assist in tasking and airspace coordination, will provide more precise characteristics for any particular air vehicle configuration.

Predator provides NRT video and/or still electro-optic imagery, or still infrared imagery, or still synthetic aperture radar imagery. The NRT video is provided within 0.6 seconds of the event to users with SATCOM receivers or access to JWICS terminals. The still imagery is available to users with access to JDISS terminals. Still imagery may also be obtained by "frame-grabbing" from the NRT video. Control of the air vehicle and the transmission of imagery from the air vehicle to the GCS is through one or more of the following links: C-band Line-of-Sight (5.25-5.85 MHz), an Ultra High Frequency (UHF) Over-the-Horizon (244.0 MHz to 318.0 MHz), or a Ku Band Over-the-Horizon (11.45-14.5 GHz) data link.

While not providing the ability to operate for any extended period of time in icing conditions, the addition of an anti-/de-icing capability allows the air vehicle to transit through icing conditions. The current ice mitigation features consist of a heated pitot tube, an ice sensor, and a modified engine inlet which precludes build-up of ice chunks in sufficient size to choke the engine. A "weeping wing" anti-icing and limited de-icing system which dispenses glycol is being installed. This kit uses a dedicated set of wings to replace the existing wings. Changeout of the wings and the associated elements of the de-icing system can be performed in approximately ten hours in the field.

d. Flight Safety Considerations

The Predator air vehicle is currently equipped with a commercial Mode IIIC transponder with a single antenna on the top of the fuselage. At the present time, the UAV pilot communicates with air traffic control agencies through landline or GCS radio channels. As part of the Predator Pre-Planned Product Improvement (P3I) program, an AN/ARC-210 VHF/UHF radio (allowing the pilot to communicate through the air vehicle directly to the air control agency) and an AN/APX-100 Interrogation - Friend or Foe (IFF ) transponder with modes I - IV (which can be interrogated from the ground or air with top- and bottom-mounted antennas to provide uninterrupted flight following) will be installed on the air vehicle. Additionally, the redundancy provided by the full duplex satellite command and control data link and the full duplex line-of-sight data link should ensure adequate monitoring and control of the air vehicle is always available. Predator is currently equipped with a safety parachute although the parachute capability has never been tested or used. These capabilities are provided for range safety and operational use to allow the air vehicle to deconfliction procedures should contact with control elements be lost or the air vehicle deviate from the programmed flight profile. Operational considerations for flight safety such as altitude, geographic, and time separation should be employed as they would be in the case of manned aircraft.