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Different Types of Military Drones: Explained In Details (June 2024)

By: Richard J. Gross
Updated On: March 3, 2022

Types of Military Drones or Unmanned aerial vehicles, more commonly known as drones, are well known for their use in search and rescue missions, with disaster relief efforts, help farmers map their crops and track livestock, surveillance purposes, etc.

Types of Military Drones

Drone technology is constantly evolving, which means that the possibilities for their use are endless. In fact, they have been used by the military for years and are becoming more and more prevalent in military operations.

In this blog post, we will take a look at some of the latest drone technologies that are being used by the military. We will also discuss the benefits and drawbacks of each type of drone. So without further delay, let’s get started!

First, let’s dive into the history of drones used in the military.

A Brief History Of The Use Of Drones In Military Operations

Drones or Unmanned aerial vehicles have been around for over a century. The first manned flight was by the Wright brothers in 1903. However, it wasn’t until after World War II that unmanned aircraft began to be developed commercially.

In the early days of drone development, they were primarily used for reconnaissance and surveillance purposes.

The use of drones in military operations can be traced back to the early days of World War I. In fact, the first successful drone mission was conducted by the British Royal Navy in 1917. At that time, they used a pilotless aircraft called the “Queen Bee” for target practice.

Then during World War II, drones were used for bombing missions. However, they were not very successful because of their limited range and payload capacity.

Drones were also used for military purposes in the early 2000s during the Iraq War. They were sent to gather intelligence and conduct airstrikes.

In addition, they were utilized as a form of psychological warfare by flying them over enemy territory and playing music or broadcasting propaganda messages.

Since then, drone technology has continued to evolve. They are becoming more and more prevalent in military operations due to their many benefits, such as the ability to stay in the air for long periods of time, gather intelligence, and carry out precision attacks.

The use of military drones has sparked much debate and controversy over the years. Some people believe that they are ethically wrong to use in combat situations, as they can cause civilian casualties. Others argue that they provide a more accurate and efficient way to conduct airstrikes without putting troops at risk.

Advocates argue that they provide a cheaper, more efficient way to carry out military operations. They also argue that they reduce the number of civilian casualties, as drones are more precise than other weapons systems.

Critics also argue that the use of military drones leads to a “slippery slope” – that is, once we start using military drones, we will be more likely to use them in other situations, such as domestic law enforcement.

There are no easy answers when it comes to the ethics of military drones. However, it is important to consider the implications of their use before making any decisions.

There are many reasons why people like using the term Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) instead of drones. Some people believe that UAS sounds less militaristic, while others think that it is a more accurate description of the technology.

Drones can be used for a variety of purposes, including military operations, search and rescue missions, and aerial photography.

UAS, on the other hand, refers specifically to aircraft that are flown without a human pilot on board. This distinction is important because it means that UAS can be used for a wider range of applications than drones.

Another advantage of using the term UAS is that it sounds less dangerous. People think that the term drone has negative connotations because it is often associated with military operations. Hence, the term UAS has already gained widespread acceptance among the general public.

Now that we have a basic understanding of the history of drones in military operations, let’s take a look at some of the latest drone technologies that are being used by the military.

Also Read: Best Gas Powered Drones: All You Need To Know About

Categories Of The Military Drones

A categorization of drones developed by Nato helps better gauge their divisions on the basis of speed, weight, etc. The categories are as follows:

CLASS I (Less than 150kg)

The drones in this class are the slowest and lightest type, and they are typically used for reconnaissance or surveillance missions. They can be carried by a single person and have a flight time of up to two hours.

This class includes micro drones, mini drones, and small drones.


Microdrones weigh less than 150 kg and can be used for a variety of purposes such as intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), target acquisition, communications relay, battlefield damage assessment, or delivering munitions.

Types of Military Drones

The Micro Raven is an example of a micro drone. Made by AeroVironment, it is the smallest and lightest UAS that the company produces.

The Raven weighs just four pounds and can be carried in a backpack. It has a flight time of up to 90 minutes and is used by the military for reconnaissance missions. It can be assembled in minutes.

The Micro Raven has a wingspan of just over two feet and can fly at speeds up to 50 mph. It is equipped with an infrared camera, which allows it to capture images during night missions. It is also equipped with a GPS receiver, which allows it to track its location and return to its launch point.

The Micro Raven has been used by the military in Iraq and Afghanistan for reconnaissance missions. It has also been used by law enforcement agencies for search and rescue operations.

The drone can be used to search for missing people and can be equipped with a thermal camera to detect heat signatures from fires or other sources.


Mini drones are used for the same purposes as micro-drones, but can also be employed in more complex missions such as suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD), electronic warfare (E.W.), or even strike missions.

Types of Military Drones

An example is the SkyRanger. It is a drone that is used for reconnaissance and surveillance. It has a wingspan of just over five feet and can stay in the air for up to two hours. The SkyRanger is equipped with a high-resolution camera, which allows it to capture clear images from high altitudes.

This drone is ideal for military and law enforcement applications, as it can be used to provide real-time intelligence on hostile situations.

The SkyRanger is also equipped with a GPS system, which allows operators to track its location at all times. This drone can be deployed quickly and easily, making it the perfect tool for emergency situations.

The SkyRanger has been used by the military in a number of different countries, including the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

In addition to its reconnaissance capabilities, the SkyRanger can also be used for search and rescue operations. This drone is small enough to fit through tight spaces and has a low noise profile, which makes it ideal for covert operations.

The SkyRanger has been used to rescue hostages, recover downed pilots, and provide intelligence in dangerous situations.

Small Drones

Small drones are the largest and heaviest class in this category, and like the rest of the drones is, utilized for ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance). They can also be used for electronic warfare, battlefield air traffic control, strike missions, convoy protection, and even as decoys.

Types of Military Drones

The MQ-X is a good example of a small drone. It is manufactured by General Atomics and can be armed with a variety of weapons, including Hellfire missiles. It has a flight time of up to 16 hours and can fly at a speed of up to 300 mph.

The MQ-X drone is the latest in military technology. It has a stealth design that makes it difficult to detect, and it can fly for lengthy periods of time without needing to refuel.

The MQ-X also has a high degree of maneuverability, which allows it to evade enemy fire. This drone is perfect for reconnaissance missions and for tracking enemy movements.

Class-I drones are becoming increasingly popular due to their low cost and versatility. They are preferred by special forces units or police departments, as they are small and easy to operate.

Some other commonly used Class I drones include the ScanEagle, Wasp A.E., Puma A.E., the Predator, the Reaper, etc.

The ScanEagle is a small, lightweight drone that is manufactured by Boeing. It has a wingspan of just over ten feet and can be carried by one person. It can stay in the air for up to twenty hours and can fly at a speed of up to 100mph.

It was designed for reconnaissance missions and can be equipped with either an infrared or color camera. The drone is also able to carry a small payload, making it useful for carrying communications equipment. It can be launched by hand from a moving vehicle or from the ground via a “SuperWedge” catapult system.

The ScanEagle has had great success at shortening search and rescue missions. One of its first uses was with the U.S. Navy to hunt for pirates off the coast of Somalia in 2004.

The Wasp A.E. is a small drone manufactured by AeroVironment that can be carried and operated by one person. It has a wingspan of just over five feet and can fly at speeds up to 70 mph.

It is equipped with an infrared camera and can be used for reconnaissance or surveillance missions. It can also be armed with missiles or other weapons for attacking targets.

The Wasp A.E. is the latest in drone technology and is quickly becoming one of the most popular drones in the military. The drone has also been used by the U.S. Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force.

Another latest in drone technology, the Puma A.E., is a small quadcopter with a short-range, but one that can be used for extended periods of time and has surveillance capabilities that make it useful to militaries around the world.

It is developed by AeroVironment. It has a wingspan of just over nine feet and can be carried by two people. It has a flight time of up to three hours and can fly at a speed of up to 65 mph.

Military drones are more advanced than ever before because they have been designed by robotics engineers who specialize in unmanned aerial vehicles.

Also Read: 10 Best Mapping Drones

CLASS II (150kg-600kg)

Class II UAVs, also known as tactical UAVs, are used in the close air support role. Tactical UAV systems can provide ground troops with an immediate picture of the battlefield situation, allowing for better decision-making.

Types of Military Drones

The drones in this class are larger and faster than those in Class I, and they are typically used for strike missions, intelligence gathering, or other offensive operations. They can also carry a heavier payload, such as surveillance equipment.

This class includes medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) and high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) drones.

MALE drones typically have a wingspan of around 30 feet and can stay in the air for up to 24 hours. HALE drones are much larger, with a wingspan of up to 200 feet, and they can fly for up to two weeks at a time.

Class II drones track enemy activity, provide reconnaissance and aerial surveillance, conduct search and rescue missions. The ability to fly continuously for up to two weeks allows them to cover a vast area of land or sea at any given time.

Here are some examples of Class II drones:

Sperwer: The Sperwer drone is an unmanned aerial vehicle that is used by the French military. It was developed in 2001 and has been in service since 2003.

The Sperwer is operated by a single person and can be launched from either a ground or air platform. It is equipped with an infrared camera and can be used for reconnaissance or target acquisition. The Sperwer has been used in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya.

A drone allowed even in civilian spaces is The Watchkeeper. It is a medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) developed by Elbit Systems. It is based on the Hermes 450 UAV, which has been in service with the Israeli military since 2005.

The Watchkeeper is designed to provide intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) capabilities for the British Army on the battlefield.

This UAV can carry a range of payloads, including electro-optic sensors with infra-red cameras and laser designator/illuminator, synthetic aperture radar (SAR), ground moving target indication (GMTI), and communications relay.

Watchkeeper is operated by the Army Air Corps, who have trained aircrew and maintainers at their base in Larkhill, Wiltshire. The UAVs are flown from Thales U.K.’s dedicated Watchkeeper operations center, which was opened in 2012.

Class III (more than 600kg)

Class III UAVs are strategic drones that serve the highest level of military operations. They are large, fast-moving aircraft with long-range and endurance. These drones perform reconnaissance missions over enemy territory or conduct strikes on specific targets from high altitudes.

Types of Military Drones

Class III UAVs can fly for several days at a time and can carry heavy payloads such as bombs and missiles. They are typically armed with air-to-surface missiles, anti-tank guided missiles, or laser-guided bombs.

Examples of Class III drones:

The Predator Drone is an unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems for the United States Air Force (USAF).

It was first introduced into service in 1995 and has been used in a number of conflicts, including the Kosovo War, the Afghanistan War, and the Iraq War.

The Predator is a stealthy UAV that can fly for up to 20 hours at a time. It is equipped with an infrared camera and laser designator/illuminator for targeting purposes. The Predator is armed with two AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, which have a range of up to five kilometers.

The Predator drone is one of the most well-known types of military drones. It has been used extensively in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The drone is a medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) aircraft that can be armed with both missiles and bombs. It is also equipped with cameras that allow operators to observe the battlefield from a distance.

The Global Hawk is a high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) drone that was developed by Northrop Grumman for the U.S. Air Force. It is used for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions (ISR).

Types of Military Drones

The Global Hawk can fly at altitudes of up to 65,000 feet for over 30 hours. It can also fly as far as 12,300 nautical miles and is capable of carrying out its mission for up to 24 consecutive hours.

The Global Hawk has a wingspan of 116 feet (35.36 meters) and is powered by one Rolls-Royce AE 300707 turbofan engine that generates 15,000 pounds of thrust (67.12 kN). It has a maximum takeoff weight of 32,500 pounds (14,700 kg) and can reach speeds of up to 340 knots (391 mph/629 km/h).

The Global Hawk first flew in 1998 and entered operational service with the U.S. Air Force in 2001. It has since been used in several combat situations and has logged over 165,000 flight hours.

The Global Hawk was originally designed as a replacement for the U-21/Dragon Lady series of drones but is now being developed into a more advanced high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) drone that can be used for reconnaissance missions.

The Global Hawk drone is equipped with a variety of sensors that allow it to gather intelligence information from high-altitude locations. The Global Hawk drone is currently deployed in Afghanistan and the Middle East.

The Reaper Drone is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems for the United States Air Force and CIA. It was first introduced into service in 2007 and has been used in several conflicts, including the Afghanistan War, Iraq War, and Libyan Civil War.

Types of Military Drones

The Reaper has a wingspan of 66 feet and weighs over 13,000 pounds when fully loaded with fuel and weapons. It can carry up to 500 pounds of munitions, including Hellfire missiles, JDAM GPS-guided bombs, or laser-guided bombs for precision strikes against enemy targets on the ground.

The Hermes 900 is a medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) drone that was jointly developed by the Israeli defense company Elbit Systems and the Italian aerospace company Alenia Aermacchi.

It first flew in 2009 and entered operational service with the Israeli Air Force in 2011.

It is powered by a single turboprop engine and has a wingspan of 18.74 meters (61.73 feet). It can carry a payload of up to 350 kilograms (772 pounds) and has a maximum endurance of 24 hours.

The Hermes 900 is equipped with an advanced electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensor suite, which is capable of day and night operations. It can also be equipped with synthetic aperture radar (SAR), communications relay, electronic warfare (E.W.) systems, or multi-mode maritime patrol radar.

The drone’s flight control system allows it to fly either autonomously or under the control of an operator on the ground.

Classifications Based On Functions

UAVs are also classifiable on the basis of certain roles they fulfill for military operations. The following are some of the most common roles for UAVs in the military:

Reconnaissance: UAVs used for reconnaissance conduct surveillance missions over enemy territory to collect intelligence on troop movements, weapon stockpiles, and other strategic targets.

Attack: UAVs used for attack carry weapons such as missiles or bombs. They are used to conduct strikes on enemy targets when stealth is of the utmost importance.

Combat Support: UAVs used for combat support provide fire support to friendly ground troops. They can be equipped with weapons or sensors to help identify enemy targets on the battlefield.

Combat: UAVs used for combat are armed with machine guns, cannons, and other types of weaponry. They engage in air-to-air combat against enemy aircraft or provide close air support to ground troops.

Research and Development: These are used for testing new technologies before they are deployed in combat.

Logistics: UAVs used for logistics support transport supplies and equipment to troops on the battlefield. They can also be used to evacuate injured personnel from the battlefield.

Command and Control: UAVs used for command and control provide reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition (RSTA) capabilities for commanders on the ground. They relay information on enemy movements, weapon locations, and other strategic targets to friendly forces in the area.

Civil and Commercial: These are used for a wide range of civilian drones and commercial drones applications such as photography, agriculture, and surveying.

Classifications Based On Autonomy Of The UAVs

UAVs have a classification system based on their autonomy and interaction with human operators while they are performing their missions.

Autonomous drone operation is done when a UAV doesn’t need any input from an operator; it flies itself without any help from humans on the ground. Autonomous UAVs can fly predetermined routes or conduct missions based on pre-programmed instructions on Autonomous programmable drones.

Autonomous UAVs have been around for more than 50 years. The first autonomous UAV was the Teledyne Ryan Firebee, which was developed in the early 1950s. It was a small, unmanned aircraft that could be controlled remotely by an operator on the ground.

In 1973, Israeli engineer Abraham Karem designed and built the first truly autonomous UAV, which he called the Albatross. The Albatross was a large, propeller-driven aircraft that could stay in the air for hours at a time.

In the early 1990s, Israeli company Tadiran developed the Mastiff, which was the first UAV to be equipped with an autopilot system that allowed it to fly autonomously.

Any UAV that needs human guidance even in the slightest cannot be considered fully autonomous.

The following classifications exist for UAVs that make use of autonomous technology:

Sensor fusion is the combining of data from multiple sensors on a UAV to create a more accurate and complete picture of the battlefield. This is done with the help of artificial intelligence (A.I.) algorithms that allow the UAV to identify targets and make decisions about how to best respond.

Path planning is a type of A.I. that allows UAVs to plan their own routes and avoid obstacles. This is accomplished with the use of algorithms that calculate the best route from point A to point B based on multiple factors such as terrain, weather conditions, etc.

Mission planning is another form of A.I. that allows UAVs to make decisions about how to best accomplish their mission objectives.

Communication UAVs are a type of UAV that is used for communication relay between ground forces and commanders. They can also be used to transmit information from other UAVs or satellites back to ground forces.

Trajectory generation UAVs are a type of UAV that is used for trajectory generation. They create flight paths for other UAVs to follow. This is done by sending commands to the other UAVs that tell them how to navigate around obstacles and avoid enemy fire.

Scheduling UAVs are a type of UAV that is used for scheduling. They manage the flight plans of other UAVs and keep them on track so that they can all arrive at their destinations on time.

Task assignment UAVs are a type of UAV that is used for task assignment. They assign tasks to other UAVs in order to accomplish their mission objectives.

Cooperative tactics UAVs are a type of UAV that is used for cooperative tactics. They work together with other UAVs to achieve common goals. This can involve sharing data between the UAVs, or coordinating their actions in order to overwhelm the enemy.

The path of autonomous UAVs has the opportunity to lead to the development of a more receptive UAV, the Smart UAV, which will, in time, replace the human controller altogether.

The Future of UAVs

Unmanned aerial vehicles are an increasingly common sight in the skies. They can be used for everything from delivering packages to monitoring traffic conditions and assisting with search-and-rescue operations.

UAVs have been around since World War II. Today, they are used in both military and civilian applications. The U.S. military uses them for reconnaissance missions, while some police departments use them to monitor traffic conditions and assist with search-and-rescue operations.

In the future, it is likely that UAVs will play an even bigger role in both the military and civilian spheres. They will become more sophisticated, and their applications will continue to grow.

As technology advances, it is possible that human controllers will eventually be replaced by autonomous UAVs altogether. This would have a major impact on the way we conduct warfare and perform other tasks that currently require human intervention.

There is a wide range of uses for UAVs, and as technology continues to advance, it will be interesting to see what new applications emerge over time. It is an exciting prospect, and one that we will continue to watch unfold in the years to come.


The use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) has rapidly increased in recent years, with militaries and police forces all around the world utilizing them for various tasks. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles continue to be applied in various military operations across the globe.

They provide troops with a new layer of situational awareness and can also be used for tasks such as airstrikes and cargo transport. The potential civilian applications of UAVs are vast and continue to be explored.

UAVs also have many classifications as we saw in this article. UAVs can be classified by their weight, purpose, function, or design.

Some common types of UAVs include reconnaissance UAVs, communication UAVs, trajectory generation UAVs, and cooperative tactics UAVs. Each type has its own unique capabilities that make it valuable for specific applications.

UAVs are just one example of how technology is changing. The future looks bright for UAVs, as they continue to be developed with new capabilities and applications.

In this article, we took a look at some of the most common types of military drones and their uses in the military sector. We also explored some of the civilian applications that are being developed.

They have already proven themselves to be valuable assets in many different fields, and their potential is limitless. We can only wait to see what comes next from the world of UAVs, and how they will affect our lives.

Thank You for Reading!

Richard J. Gross

Hi, my name is Richard J. Gross and I’m a full-time Airbus pilot and commercial drone business owner. I got into drones in 2015 when I started doing aerial photography for real estate companies. I had no idea what I was getting into at the time, but it turns out that police were called on me shortly after I started flying. They didn’t like me flying my drone near people, so they asked me to come train their officers on the rules and regulations for drones. After that, I decided to start my own drone business and teach others about the safe and responsible use of drones.

One comment on “Different Types of Military Drones: Explained In Details (June 2024)”

  1. “I really appreciate you sharing all these great tips with the how-tos!” “Your writings/blogs always have the best humor.”

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