In autumn it was an announcement with little detail.

Now there is.

The General Atomics Group, known for its military drones, will be the new manufacturer of the traditional German regional aircraft Dornier Do228.

The US group buys the former Dornier activities in Oberpfaffenhofen near Munich, which were last held by the Swiss Ruag group, and intends to write aviation history again.

The site is to be expanded into the European aviation center of the US group.

"Both for civil and military models, manned and unmanned," says Harald Robl, Managing Director of General Atomics Europe, when asked by WELT.

The project is peppered with special features.

General Atomics is one of the larger US defense companies, but is privately owned.

With the purchase of the Ruag-Dornier activities in Oberpfaffenhofen, the Blue family, who owns the company, entered civil aircraft construction for the first time and laid the foundation for a new business pillar.


Internationally, General Atomics is best known for its large US military drones MQ-1 Predator and the MQ-9A Predator B / Reaper, which has been flying for exactly 20 years.

The Reaper is known as the “queen of drones” because it can do both: observe and use weapons.

The Sky / SeaGuardian surveillance threats are further developments.

The Group's vast experience in drone control including collision avoidance is to be linked to the civil aviation world in the future.

In the future, industry experts expect aircraft that have only one pilot instead of two or a completely empty cockpit.

Remote-controlled aircraft are expected in a few years, initially for freight operations.

General Atomics sees its opportunity here.

US company wants to use its experience in the drone business


"We will use our technology leadership from unmanned aviation to transfer it to civil aviation," says General Atomics Manager Robl.

Then it becomes more specific: “We will bring the Do228 model in a modernized version Do228NXT onto the market in around two and a half years.

This model is then the starting platform for a future unmanned cargo aircraft. "

The considerations go even further.

"This should open the way to other size classes," says Robl.

A larger model would then be a completely new development.

But that is still a long way off.

The US group intends to develop the traditional Do228 regional aircraft into the first unmanned cargo aircraft built in Germany.


It would be the third life for the Do228.

The twin-engine propeller plane took off for the first time 40 years ago.

In 2009 a modernized version, the Do228 NG, came onto the market.

Under the direction of the Swiss aviation group Ruag, however, only a few copies were built in Oberpfaffenhofen.

The Do228 is a robust, reliable model for various missions for up to 19 passengers.

An estimated 120 copies are in use worldwide.

Robl admits that "homework on site" has to be done first in Oberpfaffenhofen.

At an unknown price, General Atomics is buying a complete package of activities with around 420 employees and roughly 80 million euros in sales.

This doubles the number of employees of the US group in Europe to 1,000, with a good 15,000 worldwide.

The seller of the activities in Oberpfaffenhofen is the Swiss Ruag Group, which in 2002 took over the maintenance and manufacture of the Do228 from the bankruptcy of Fairchild Dornier.

Because of a conversion of the Ruag Group, a buyer was then sought for a complete package of Do228 activities including the maintenance of military helicopters and business planes.

In the future, General Atomics will also service its drones in Germany

General Atomics wants to invest in the location with the airport and ensure more operations.

In Oberpfaffenhofen, Do228 aircraft are to be assembled again, then the new Do228 NXT version with modern technology.

There are already pre-orders and a "good response," says Robl.

General Atomics is also bringing drone activities to Oberpfaffenhofen.

The group already has six customers in Europe for its MQ-9 models, two of which operate the drones with weapons.

Great Britain, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and most recently Belgium have ordered.

There should be even more, also for civil applications, such as coastal surveillance.

In Dresden, General Atomics recently put a kind of European coordination office into operation for the maintenance of the MQ-9 models.

While the components have previously been flown to the USA for overhaul, in the future they can virtually remain at home under European care.

The drones also contain components made in Europe.

Further national developments could be integrated.

But no MQ-9 models will land at Oberpfaffenhofen Airport in the future, says Robl.

It is sufficient to maintain removed components there.


Years ago, Germany had considered purchasing MQ-9 itself, but then decided to rent an Israeli model.

There is currently no new tender from the German side, "but we are ready for a call," says Robl.

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For the General Atomics owner family Blue, the acquisition in Oberpfaffen is not the first commitment in Germany.

After reunification, investments were made in East Germany.

The family has German roots.

So far she has known how to expand her empire in various fields of technology.

She has no reservations about armaments or nuclear energy - also one of the branches of General Atomics in the USA.

At the top are the 80-year-old billionaire and CEO Neal Blue and his brother Linden Stanley Blue as vice-president.

Both are avid pilots.

The family structures are complex.

Neal's sons are 57-year-old Linden Blue and his one year younger brother Karsten.

Both speak German, and Linden already knows the future new location in Oberpfaffenhofen.