General Atomics Aeronautical Systems‘ (GA-ASI) Predator B/MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) fleet has completed one million cumulative flight hours.

This milestone was achieved after flying 78,606 sorties, and about 90% of flight flown in support of combat missions.

The drone flew its first sortie from GA-ASI’s Gray Butte Flight Operations Facility in Palmdale, California, US, on 2 February 2001. The flight hours now account for nearly one-third of the company’s 3.2 million total flight hours, and are increasing at an average rate of more than 22,000 hours a month.

In addition, the company announced that its Predator / Gray Eagle-series aircraft family set a company record and historic industry feat last year, by flying for more than 500,000 hours, which is the equivalent of flying 1,370 hours around-the-clock every day.

"The drone flew its first sortie from GA-ASI’s Gray Butte Flight Operations Facility in Palmdale, California, US, on 2 February 2001."

GA-ASI Aircraft Systems president Frank Pace said: "These records are a testament to the reliability and durability, as well as the remarkable operational flexibility, of GA-ASI’s RPA family."

The Predator is a turboprop-powered unmanned aircraft system (UAS) and provides persistent situational awareness to safeguard borders and maritime approaches, in addition to supporting military missions worldwide.

The UAS are currently logging more than 700 hours a day supporting the US Air Force, US Department of Homeland Security, Nasa, the Italian Air Force, the Royal Air Force, as well as the French Air Force, and other customers.

Specific missions performed by the aircraft include direct support to soldiers in world hot spots, assisting border agents in monitoring the nation’s borders, aiding first responders in the wake of natural disasters, and supporting scientists in performing Earth science missions.

To date, the company has delivered more than 230 Predator B aircraft, and is currently manufacturing three aircraft per month. It could more than double the production capacity if required.