Abraham E Karem: Drone Inventor History & Biography

In the sky above us, an ever-present hum signals a technological revolution. Silent observers, delivery agents, cinematographic devices – drones, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), have transformed how we perceive and interact with the world. …

abraham karem in front of drone

In the sky above us, an ever-present hum signals a technological revolution. Silent observers, delivery agents, cinematographic devices – drones, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), have transformed how we perceive and interact with the world. But who is the brain behind this groundbreaking innovation that has taken the world by storm?


Who Invented the Drone (UAVs)?

Parrot Anafi

The invention of drones, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), cannot be attributed to a single person, as it is a result of contributions from various inventors and researchers throughout history. However, one individual who played a significant role in developing modern drone technology is Abraham Karem, an aerospace engineer originally from Iraq and later an immigrant to the United States. Abraham Karem is the best-known drone inventor. 


Karem is considered the “father of the Predator drone,” which is a well-known UAV used by the military for reconnaissance and combat missions. He started working on drones in the 1970s and founded a company called Leading Systems in his garage in the 1980s. His work on the Albatross and the Amber drone led to the development of the GNAT-750, which eventually evolved into the MQ-1 Predator drone.


Early Life

abraham karem in front of drone

Abraham Karem was born in 1937 in Baghdad, Iraq. He was of Jewish descent and grew up in a time when Iraq was undergoing significant political and social upheaval.


At a young age, Karem displayed an intense interest in aeronautics. He moved to Israel as a teenager and immediately immersed himself in his passion for aviation. He studied aeronautical engineering at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, one of the most prestigious institutions in Israel.


After completing his studies, Karem began his career in the Israeli Air Force, where he worked on the first Israeli Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). His innate understanding of aeronautics and engineering, combined with a tenacious work ethic, allowed him to quickly make significant contributions to the field of UAV technology.


In the 1970s, Karem moved to the United States, where he believed he would have more opportunities to develop his ideas. There, he founded Leading Systems Inc., working from his garage to design and develop drone technology. His work in the United States, particularly on the Predator drone, has had a significant impact on modern drone technology, revolutionizing surveillance, reconnaissance, and combat operations.


Abraham Karem’s early life and career clearly showcase his passion for aeronautics and his determination to push the boundaries of what was considered possible, ultimately contributing significantly to the development of drone technology.


The invention of the Drone

drone inventor

Abraham Karem’s first significant step into the world of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones began while he was still in Israel. He was a chief designer for the Israeli Air Force, where he developed the first Israeli UAV. However, his revolutionary work on drone technology truly took flight after he migrated to the United States in the 1970s.


In the U.S., Karem founded a company called Leading Systems in his own garage. He believed that drones should be designed to loiter for extended periods over potential targets, and his designs took on a distinctly different approach compared to the prevailing technology of the time. He focused on endurance, efficiency, and affordability. It was here that he developed his first major drone, the Albatross, in the early 1980s. The Albatross was a long-endurance drone, capable of remaining in flight for up to 56 hours – an incredible feat for the period.


Following the Albatross, Karem’s next significant invention was the Amber drone. The Amber had an even longer flight time, was more reliable, and featured a groundbreaking control system that would become a staple in future UAVs.


Unfortunately, Karem’s innovations were ahead of their time and the Amber project was canceled due to lack of interest and funding. However, his company’s assets, including the Amber drone, were purchased by General Atomics, who recognized the potential of his work.


Under General Atomics, the Amber drone was developed into the Gnat-750 and later evolved into the Predator drone, a UAV that would revolutionize modern warfare and surveillance. The Predator, unlike its predecessors, could be controlled from a remote location, carried a camera for real-time surveillance, and was later armed to carry out precision strikes.


Comparing Karem’s first drones to the modern ones, it’s clear that the essence of his pioneering work — endurance, efficiency, and remote control — still forms the backbone of today’s drone technology. Modern drones have been scaled down for commercial and civilian use, equipped with high-definition cameras, and enhanced with features like GPS and obstacle avoidance systems. However, they still carry the DNA of Karem’s original vision, demonstrating the lasting impact of his groundbreaking work.



Karem inventing the drone

Abraham Karem’s journey from a young aviation enthusiast to being hailed as the “father of the Predator drone” is marked by a series of significant achievements. Let’s examine these milestones in chronological order:


Education: Karem studied aeronautical engineering at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, one of the most prestigious institutions in Israel. His academic pursuits laid the groundwork for his later achievements.


Israeli Air Force: After his studies, Karem worked with the Israeli Air Force. He was instrumental in the development of Israel’s first Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), marking his first significant contribution to drone technology.


Migration to the United States: In the 1970s, Karem moved to the United States, believing that he would have more opportunities to develop his ideas in the burgeoning tech industry.


Founding of Leading Systems: Upon arriving in the U.S., Karem established Leading Systems in his garage. This small operation would eventually revolutionize the drone industry.


Invention of the Albatross: In the early 1980s, under Leading Systems, Karem developed the Albatross, a long-endurance drone capable of remaining in flight for up to 56 hours.


Invention of the Amber Drone: Following the Albatross, Karem developed the Amber drone, which had an even longer flight time and introduced a groundbreaking control system.


Sale to General Atomics: Though Leading Systems ran into financial difficulties and was eventually sold, the company’s assets, including the Amber drone, were acquired by General Atomics, setting the stage for the next generation of UAVs.


Development of the Predator Drone: Under General Atomics, the Amber drone was evolved into the GNAT-750 and eventually the MQ-1 Predator drone. The Predator could be controlled remotely, carried a camera for real-time surveillance, and was eventually armed for combat, revolutionizing modern warfare and surveillance.


Founding of Karem Aircraft: In 2004, Karem founded Karem Aircraft, an aerospace manufacturer based in California. The company focuses on developing innovative solutions for military and commercial applications, continuing Karem’s tradition of pushing the boundaries of aviation technology.


What is a Drone?

DJI Mavic Air 2

A drone, also known as an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), is an aircraft that operates without an onboard human pilot. Drones can be controlled remotely by a human operator or autonomously by an onboard computer system. They come in various shapes, sizes, and configurations, depending on their intended purpose and design.


Drones have a wide range of applications, including aerial photography and videography, surveillance, mapping, delivering supplies, agriculture, weather monitoring, and firefighting, among others. They have also been used extensively in military operations for reconnaissance, intelligence gathering, and targeted strikes.


In recent years, drones have become increasingly popular for recreational and commercial uses, such as capturing breathtaking aerial footage, performing inspections, or even racing in specialized drone competitions.


Why is it Called a Drone?

drone bee buzzing

The term “drone” originally referred to a low-humming sound, similar to that of a male honeybee. The name was first applied to pilotless aircraft during World War II, when the British Royal Navy used remote-controlled aircraft for target practice. These target aircraft were called “Queen Bee,” and the term “drone” was eventually adopted as a generic term for similar technology due to its association with the Queen Bee.


In a modern context, the term “drone” is used to refer to any unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). This can range from small, recreational quadcopters to large, military-grade unmanned aircraft. The name has stuck around, even as the technology has evolved far beyond its initial usage.


When were drones invented?


The concept of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, has its roots in the mid to late 19th century, with the earliest instances like the unmanned balloons used for military purposes during the American Civil War. However, the development of what we consider modern drones began in earnest during the early 20th century, notably during World War I and II, with significant advancements in the late 20th century by pioneers like Abraham Karem.


Uses For Drones



military drone

Drones have played a significant role in military operations since their inception. Their ability to fly over hostile territories without endangering human lives makes them an invaluable asset for reconnaissance, surveillance, and intelligence gathering. In recent years, armed drones have been used for precision strikes, enabling militaries to neutralize targets with minimal collateral damage.



drone photography

The advent of drones has revolutionized the field of photography and videography. Equipped with high-resolution cameras, drones can capture stunning aerial footage that was once possible only with the use of helicopters or airplanes. They have become an essential tool for filmmakers, photographers, and content creators, allowing for unique perspectives and dramatic shots.



drone mapping

Drones are increasingly used in mapping and surveying because of their ability to cover large areas quickly and efficiently. They can capture high-resolution images, which can be stitched together to create detailed and accurate maps. This technology is useful in various fields, including archaeology, construction, urban planning, and environmental studies.


Delivering Supplies

drone delivery

In recent years, drones have been explored as a means of delivering goods and supplies. Companies like Amazon are investing in drone technology to make fast, efficient deliveries directly to customers’ homes. Moreover, drones have proven invaluable in delivering vital supplies to remote or disaster-stricken areas, where conventional means of transportation are not feasible.



drone in bad weather

Meteorologists are increasingly using drones to study weather patterns and phenomena. These UAVs can venture into hazardous conditions, such as hurricanes or thunderstorms, collecting data that would be difficult or dangerous to gather otherwise. This information can improve weather forecasting and our understanding of climatic changes.



drone firefighter

Drones are becoming an essential tool in fighting wildfires. They can provide real-time images and data, helping firefighters understand the scope of the fire and plan their approach. Some drones are even equipped to drop fire retardant, aiding in efforts to control and extinguish large fires.



drone irrigation

In agriculture, drones are used to monitor crop health and optimize irrigation. Equipped with multispectral sensors, drones can identify areas of a field that are dry or need more nutrients. This allows farmers to target their irrigation and fertilization efforts, conserving water and resources while maximizing crop yield.


What was the first drone used for?

first military drone

The earliest forms of what we now consider drones were used for military purposes. During the American Civil War, both the Union and Confederate armies experimented with unmanned balloons to carry explosives over enemy lines.


However, the first proper use of unmanned aircraft was in World War I with the development of the Kettering Bug, an experimental, unmanned aerial torpedo invented by Charles Kettering. This early drone was designed to deliver a payload of explosives to a target. The Kettering Bug had preset controls that determined its distance and trajectory, after which it would drop its explosives and the wings would fall off, causing the Bug to fall to the ground.


While the Kettering Bug was not used extensively during the war due to technical challenges and the end of the war, it set the stage for the use of unmanned aerial vehicles in combat and reconnaissance roles, which continues to this day.


Bottom Line: The Importance of Drones

Abraham Karem with Albatross

Drones have transformed from a niche technology into an indispensable tool in numerous fields. Their ability to capture high-resolution imagery from the air, deliver supplies, gather data in hazardous conditions, and even assist in life-saving missions underscores their immense potential and utility. 


Drones have not only revolutionized military operations but have also made significant inroads into commercial, scientific, and recreational applications. As the technology continues to evolve, drones are likely to play an even more significant role in shaping our world, from boosting productivity and improving safety to expanding our understanding of the environment and revolutionizing entertainment. 


The importance of drones today cannot be overstated—they represent a major leap forward in our ability to interact with and understand the world around us.




Who used drones first?

The first recorded use of drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, was by the military. Specifically, during World War I, the U.S. military experimented with a form of unmanned aircraft called the Kettering Bug, designed to deliver explosives to enemy targets.


When did Abraham Karem invent drones?

Abraham Karem, often considered the “father of the Predator drone,” started working on drones in the 1970s after moving to the United States from Israel. He developed his first major drone, the Albatross, in the early 1980s under his company, Leading Systems.


Did the military invent drones?

While the concept and initial development of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, originated within the military, it wasn’t the work of the military alone. Numerous inventors, engineers, and scientists, such as Abraham Karem, contributed significantly to the evolution of drone technology over time.


What were drones originally designed for?

Drones were originally designed for military purposes, primarily for reconnaissance and as target practice for anti-aircraft gunners. Over time, their design evolved to serve in a variety of roles, such as surveillance, intelligence gathering, and eventually, carrying out precision strikes in hostile territories.


When was the first armed drone used?

The first armed drone, the MQ-1 Predator, was used by the U.S. military. It was outfitted with Hellfire missiles for the first time in 2001, in the early stages of the war in Afghanistan, marking a significant milestone in the use of drones for targeted military strikes.


Did drones exist in 1994?

Yes, drones did exist in 1994, though they were primarily used in military applications and were not as sophisticated or prevalent as they are today. It was during this period that key advancements were being made in drone technology, including the development of the General Atomics GNAT-750, a predecessor to the well-known Predator drone.


Which company sold the first commercial drone?

The first company to sell a commercial drone was the French company, Parrot. Their product, the Parrot AR.Drone, launched in 2010, was a quadcopter controlled by a smartphone or tablet, and it marked a significant milestone in the commercial availability of drone technology.