Thomas J. Cassidy Jr., considered the father of the remotely controlled Predator drone that has redefined warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan, retired Monday from the San Diego-area aerospace firm that he helped found and grow.
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. said Cassidy, 77, retired as president of its Aircraft Systems Group, which builds unmanned aircraft, including the Predator -- currently the most widely deployed unmanned aerial vehicle in the U.S. arsenal.
The company, which disclosed the retirement after an inquiry from a Times reporter, said Cassidy was unavailable for comment.
Cassidy joined General Atomics, the unmanned aircraft's then-parent, in 1987 after a 34-year career in the U.S. Navy. According to analysts, Cassidy's standing as a former fighter pilot and rear admiral in the Navy provided credibility to unmanned aircraft, which was seen at the time as a niche technology.
In 1993, Cassidy helped create the aeronautical unit, which later was spun off as an affiliated company. Cassidy is credited for launching the robotic plane business at a time when the technology was ridiculed as unreliable.