The military has been using drones since the beginning of warfare. Although, it wasn’t until recently that crewless vehicles started to become widely used by militaries and governments worldwide.
There are many different types of military drones out there. However, knowing their differences can help you understand how they’re used.
The way it’s used in military operations and the kind of impact they’ve on the global conflict in the 21st century.
Here are some of the most popular types of military drones you should know about.
1. Avenger (General Atomics)
The Avenger is another part of medium-altitude types of military drones. It’s a long-endurance drone used primarily to carry out intelligence and surveillance missions. It flies at altitudes between 20,000 and 25,000 feet.
The vehicle has a wingspan of 54 feet and weighs around 1,850 pounds. It can stay in flight for as long as 24 hours on one gas tank. U.S.-backed Iraqi forces have deployed the aircraft to help fight ISIS.
However, one issue with drones like these is their cost; each plane costs about $16 million.
2. AAI RQ-7
Air Force and other military branches use these hand-launched types of civilian drone systems for many purposes, including scouting.
RQ-7 was initially used in Iraq and Afghanistan and is now being upgraded by contractors to fly at night. It functions as a handheld device that can stay aloft much longer than it would take someone on foot.
Furthermore, the new Global Hawk program has served as an example for those looking for more efficient military drones.
Global Hawk can hold its position for extended periods. It allows viewers to examine information about a particular area before sending in ground forces or using other tools.
3. Northrop Grumman X-47A
This is one of the types of military drone, also known as the Unmanned Combat Air System-Demonstrator (UCAS-D).
It is a crewless combat air vehicle designed by Northrop Grumman for use by various countries’ military forces.
It was expected to have a unit cost of about $20 million when production commences in 2013 or 2014.
Moreso, a scale model was first revealed at an invitation-only press conference on 16 December 2008. The company stated that one key feature that makes X-47 unique is its ability to perform carrier launches and landings.
Another significant factor is its tailless design. It reduces wave drag and radar cross-section while improving aerodynamic efficiency and wing loading. Thus increasing fuel efficiency and range compared to aircraft with tails.
4. MQ-8 Fire Scout
The MQ-8 Fire Scout is a hybrid helicopter/fixed-wing crewless aerial vehicle (UAV).
It is designed to perform Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) and light strike missions. It’s a particular type of military drone operated by both military and civilian crew members.
Moreso, the aircraft weighs 2,200 pounds, has an endurance of 6 hours, and can reach an altitude of 15,000 feet.
Fire Scouts are employed by both U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps. For reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition support fleet defense operations.
The RQ-4 Global Hawk is part of the types of military drones. It is one of many crewless aerial vehicles (UAVs) developed for military purposes. UAVs have been used for reconnaissance and surveillance missions since World War I.
Although, their roles have expanded into the attack and air traffic control. While initially used only in warfare, military drones are now deployed in peacekeeping and search-and-rescue missions.
However, many different types of military drones exist today. Read on to learn more about how they work, their use, and some notable examples.
6. MQ-1 Predator
This MQ-1 Predator, among the types of military drones, is also known as a UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle).
It was developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems in 1990. It can be used to survey the territory, collect intelligence and provide video surveillance.
The drone flies at an altitude of up to 10 miles, using electro-optical/infrared cameras stored in its nose. Not only is it a spy plane, but it also has missiles attached to it that can seek out targets.
So, this makes it more deadly as well as efficient. Its stealthy design helps ensure targets don’t know they’re being watched until their mission is completed.
7. MQ-9 Reaper
As one of America’s most notorious types of military drones and a relatively large one, the MQ-9 Reaper is armed with laser-guided bombs and Hellfire missiles. It weighs up to 3 tons, has a wingspan of over 40 feet, and can fly for nearly 24 hours straight.
However, reapers are used primarily by U.S. Air Force operators out of Creech Air Force Base in Nevada. But also are flown by U.S. Army operators based out of Fort Bliss in Texas.
Recently, Washington has dispatched Reapers to several bases across Africa to assist in operations against terrorists in Somalia and Ethiopia.
8. RQ-170 Sentinel
The RQ-170 Sentinel is an uncrewed aircraft developed by Lockheed Martin for use by the United States Air Force.
The RQ-170 was one of two types of UAVs used in Operation Neptune’s Spear, where Osama bin Laden was killed. It has a wingspan of 25 feet and has a maximum takeoff weight of 1,330 pounds.
It uses stealth technology to evade enemy radar detection and fly longer distances than most other types of military drones.
While it can carry out reconnaissance missions, it can also attack enemy targets with precision-guided missiles or bombs. Its role as an attack drone means it can be tracked by radar much more quickly than other military drones.
9. RQ-21 Blackjack
The RQ-21 Blackjack is one of the small types of military drone. It’s with a low-cost UAV that has been used by both American and British forces.
The drone has been successful in Afghanistan and Iraq due to its portability and can be transported in a backpack.
More so, It’s able to provide the area with real-time video footage and transmit data from sensors on board.
These features have made it a popular choice for surveillance and providing situational awareness for troops on site. The drone can also perform surveillance missions at night or during poor weather.
10. RQ-20 Puma
RQ-20 Puma is part of the types of military drones, hand-launched drones designed for use by forwarding operating troops. The Puma weighs less than five pounds and can fly for 30 minutes at an altitude of 1,000 feet.
It can be used for surveillance and reconnaissance, monitoring enemy movements, and relaying that information to soldiers on the ground.
Moreover, the small size of the Puma allows it to be transported in a backpack and launched within minutes. This makes it especially useful in situations where troops need real-time intelligence.
However, they don’t have access to satellite imagery or other forms of communication with command centers back home.
11. RQ-12 Wasp
The RQ-12 Wasp is a crewless aerial vehicle (UAV) designed by Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC). It is a development of its predecessor, the RQ-11 Raven, and is produced in different variants with various payloads.
The Wasp utilizes electro-optical/infrared sensors and an integrated laser rangefinder/designator. It provides ground troops with day and night reconnaissance, surveillance, target acquisition, and tracking support.
In addition, users can also receive near real-time geo-location data for use with other combat support assets. This makes it one of three types of military drones developed and available on today’s market.
12. RQ-11 Raven
The Raven is a miniature, hand-launched military drone used to scout and gather intelligence. This type of military drone was first used in Iraq in 2007.
It can fly at speeds up to 50 miles per hour. It weighs less than 2 pounds, is small enough to fit in a backpack, and uses a parachute for landing. This cute little drone is still being used today.
13. Single-Rotor Drones
These are some of the oldest and simplest types of military drones. They consist of a central body (with rotors) with one or more payloads mounted on it—Multi-Rotor Drones: More complicated than single-rotor drones.
However, these come in two primary varieties: those that have four rotors and those that have eight rotors. Four-rotor drones feature two oversized side rotors, typically tilted outwards by around 45 degrees.
Meanwhile, eight-rotor drones use two medium-sized motors on each side with a single motor between them.
This arrangement provides excellent stability than a four-rotor drone but limits its maximum speed to 70 mph/112 kph.
14. Multi-Rotor Drones
There are three major multi-rotor types of military drones, each with pros and cons. The first type is a quadcopter; these are four blades placed around a central axis. When powered by a battery or an engine, it will spin.
Meanwhile, when these blades spin at high speeds (around 10 to 12 rotations per second), it creates lift. These quadcopters often use cyclic and collective pitch controls to stabilize themselves during flight.
15. Fixed-Wing Drones
Most types of military drones are helicopters, which are large machines that require considerable effort to maintain.
But some drones use fixed-wing technology, similar to airplanes, meaning they’re far more stable than their rotary counterparts. These types tend to be larger than regular consumer drones but offer higher fuel efficiency.
However, fixed-wing drones have advanced sensors that allow them to scan an area from a distance. For example, it’s safer for these machines to monitor dangerous areas than humans.
16. Reconnaissance Drone
U.S. Navy has two crewless aerial vehicles (UAVs) that can be used for surveillance: ScanEagle and Fire Scout.
The ScanEagle is a medium-altitude, long-endurance drone that operates for up to 16 hours. Fire Scout is part of the small, helicopter-type military drones that can land on ships or small platforms.
However, this is to deliver information during reconnaissance missions. Both UAVs are designed to work day/ night, in various weather conditions, and from considerable distances away from their target.
17. Large Combat Drones
The significant players in types of military drones are Northrop Grumman and General Atomics. This makes sense because both were defense contractors for decades.
However, the two companies often create strike or attack drones. These are uncrewed aerial vehicles designed to fire on (or strike) enemy forces from afar—typically using missiles. The advantage here is that they can track targets over a long distance before opening fire.
18. Target and Decoy Drones
Military drones that target other crewless aerial vehicles (UAVs) are known as target and decoy drones. These UAVs can be used to locate targets for other military weapons.
Moreso, it acts as a physical object to attract weapons away from human-crewed aerial vehicles and ground troops.
Target and decoy military drones are often modified versions of commercial technology, cheaper to create and operate—the military hopes these machines will keep soldiers out of harm’s way while they attack enemy forces.
19. GPS Drones
Before it was called a drone, it was just a UAV—short for the crewless aerial vehicle. And many early UAVs were controlled remotely via GPS. Today, that’s still true for military GPS types of military drones.
These vehicles have an advantage over their newer brethren because they can operate autonomously for long periods. Moreso can quickly be programmed on or near a combat zone to carry out scouting missions, deliver supplies, and more.
20. Photography Drones
Photographers using drones to take high-quality images and video footage have many drone options at their disposal. Some are fitted with four cameras (one facing forward, one on each side, and one at a 90-degree angle).
It also creates an accurate map showing all angles surrounding your subject. These types of military drones can snap an image up to 12 megapixels in resolution. And it will give you crisp images to use in your designs.
Meanwhile, many photography drones also come with filters that allow you to edit your images further after they’ve been taken.
The critical feature for photographers is being able to control camera settings. Settings like shutter speed, white balance, and ISO settings have GPS built into them.
21. SR-72 military drone
SR-72 is a hypersonic reconnaissance aircraft currently developed by Lockheed Martin to be more effective than its predecessor, SR-71 Blackbird.
However, the timeframe for deployment [of SR-72] is not yet determined and will depend on budget approvals and technological maturity.
So, SR-72 technology will allow us to penetrate denied airspace at hypersonic speeds. Also, to extend our situational awareness capabilities over greater distances with reduced threat risk.
22. Tactical Drones
If you are looking for a short-term solution for protecting soldiers in combat, tactical types of military drones may be your best bet.
These are smaller, less expensive military drones designed to do a specific job, like scouting out enemy territory.
However, it doesn’t have enough power to last through many missions. Tactical drones typically have limited flight time and distance due to their smaller size and control systems.
So, these are a few of your options regarding types of military drones.
Regardless of your choice, keep in mind that you’ll want to study it before using it. And never use a drone without permission.
Also, because they’re so new, drone laws vary by country. So, ensure you know what’s legal in your area before taking off.