General Atomics, best known for its creation of the Predator and MQ-9 Reaper drones Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: General Atomics, best known for its creation of the Predator and MQ-9 Reaper drones, has confirmed the delivery of all the Predator XP models to the UAE in a deal worth Dh722 million ($198 million).

Speaking in an interview at Idex in Abu Dhabi, Jim Thompson, Regional Vice President, MENA, confirmed the delivery had taken place this year, but declined to specify how many units the deal involved.

The cost of an MQ-1 Predator was $4.03 million, as of 2013. The deal with the UAE was an all-encompassing agreement, according to the Thompson, including training.

The Predator XP is an unarmed, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), a variation on the original Predator MQ-1, specifically tailored to meet US export requirements to the UAE. The company is not authorised to sell the weaponized MQ-9 model to a number of countries, including the UAE.

“As US policy changes, the situation here may change, and there’s optimism about the new administration. For the last eight years, we’ve been pretty much stonewalled on changes in UAV policy.”

Despite the prominent use of drones in its own military operations, the Obama administration staunchly controlled the export of drones abroad.

Thompson also commented on the success of the company’s recently launched “company-owned, company-operated (COCO)” programme, essentially a fixed-term lease that includes the UAV, and a trained team to operate and service it.

“It’s kind of like a ‘try before you buy’ programme,” said Thompson. “We own the planes, but we can rent them to a country who may not have the money to buy one, or may not have the necessary infrastructure in terms of pilots and mechanics and so on to buy one,” he said.

“We provide everything for a price, and what they get in return is the imagery. The high-definition live video, infrared, radar, everything. They have that information feeding in to their command centre, and then they have their other assets to do what they need to do.”