How Do Military Drones Work?

Beth Huston Profile image

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Updated June 27, 2022

Some of the best drones in existence are used in military strikes worldwide. Military drone technology has come a long way since it first began implementation around 2001.


  • Military drones use advanced technology that is unattainable for the average consumer.
  • There are several applications for drones in the military, including both signature strikes and general reconnaissance missions.
  • Some models used by the military are autonomous drones. This means that they can continue to fly without instruction from an operator.

If you’re looking for the most expensive drone, many of the autonomous drones used by the military make the cut, like the MQ-1 Predator. We’ll talk more about how these drones work below.

Exploring Military Drone Technology

Commercial drones are used for a variety of reasons. For some, they make deliveries. Learning more about how drones deliver packages will teach you more about this type. You’ll also learn how much weight a drone can carry.

Today, we’ll be talking specifically about unmanned aircraft used by the military.

Insider Tip

One of the first drone strikes was against Osama Bin Laden, but it missed and instead hit a caravan with his bodyguards.

There are a ton of questions people have related to this technology. For example, “How far can military drones fly?” is a big one. Keep reading to find out more about the tech behind these unmanned systems.

Types of Military Drone Technology

There are several types of commercial drones used by military forces around the world, including air forces from every modernized country. We’ll talk about two of the most important types below.

Commercial Drones

These drones require human operators and usually are what you think of when it comes to drones. Drones have several applications, but drone warfare tends to end in a lot of collateral damage.

Because of this, it’s speculated that a stricter review of political policy needs to take place. This is especially true when signature strikes tend to involve a human target.

There are several ways the military controls these drones. You might want to read articles on how to control a drone if you’re interested in learning more about how drones are controlled.

Autonomous Drones

An autonomous drone doesn’t require a drone pilot at all times. Autonomous drones can continue to operate and fire air missiles, whether at a human target or otherwise. These include models such as the MQ-1B Predator.

These autonomous weapons systems tend to be far more deadly than their counterparts. This is because even if a pilot is injured, the drone can still carry out its orders.


Drone usage often comes up when talking about warfare and human rights. Many want a strict drone policy when it comes to warfare.


How many military drones are in use?

There is no set number on how many armed drones are used by military forces. After all, there will always be special projects and military technologies we don’t know about.

What is a drone?

A drone is an unmanned aircraft that can serve several purposes. They’re used by hobbyists who’ve upgraded from model aircraft to drone technology for the most part.

When did drones become weapons?

Attack drones began production shortly after 9/11, when the primary mode of warfare was using surface missiles. In the early days of drone warfare, there ended up being a lot of collateral damage.

What are autonomous drones?

Autonomous drones are unique because they do not necessarily need a drone pilot to fly. These advanced drones can move about and continue to operate regardless.

STAT: As of July 1, 2013, the Department of Defense had 112 Reaper-MQ-9 UAS at their disposal. (source)

Beth Huston Profile image