How Far Can Military Drones Fly?

Beth Huston Profile image

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Updated June 27, 2022

If you’re looking for the best drones globally, the military has plenty of top models. After all, they must have the best autonomous drones available for safe operations and reconnaissance missions. While understanding how military drones work is fascinating for plenty of people, let’s talk about precisely how far can military drones fly.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • There are several different types of military drones, such as autonomous drone systems, and they all have varying abilities based on their purpose.
  • Military drone models are manufactured by the defense contractor in charge of the project and have different rules due to being part of the defense industry.
  • The advanced technology of the United States Air Force allows drones to fly up to 50,000 feet into the air and have a distance range of 100 to 124 miles (160-200 km).

The Maximum Range of Military-Grade Drones

Unlike your toy drone at home, the military uses an advanced version of the same UAV technology. A military-grade aircraft tends to be a larger version, as well.

They also don’t have to follow the same rules as consumer drones. If you know how high drones can legally fly, you’ll be shocked to learn how high military drones can go. Understanding how drones fly will help you better unpack the details we’ll go over below.

The Different Types of Military-Grade Drones

There are several different types of military-grade drones out there. If you’re ever wondering what drones are used for, “military operations” is a big category.

Insider Tip

There are tons of regulations surrounding unmanned systems, even at a civilian level. Ensure you brush up on the rules regarding your drone usage.

These are a few different types of unmanned aircraft:

  • Combat Drones
  • Surveillance Drones
  • Autonomous Drones

They all have varying abilities suited to their purpose, whether serving the Air Force or a different military branch. In the meantime, if you’re looking into great consumer drones, try reading up on the Walkera GR x350 Pro review.

Here are some quick stats about some of the current models and types:

  • Hand-held drones have a 2 km (1.25 miles) range
  • NATO type drones have a 50 km (31 miles) range
  • Hypersonic high-speed drones have a range of over 200 km (124 miles)

There are a ton more out there, however.

Surveillance Drones

These drones have a maximum altitude of 50,000 feet, depending on several factors. They have to be able to fly high enough that military technologies like radar can’t detect them.

This keeps opposing military forces unaware of any missions the United States currently has.

Combat Drones

Having a substantial maximum altitude is not nearly as crucial for combat missions. Because of this, you’ll likely see many of these drones have limitations underneath their surveillance counterparts.

However, they’ll still be able to fly far higher than consumer models. This can help keep them outside of civilian airspace.

Autonomous Drones

Autonomous drones can still carry out a mission without the ground control station directing their every move. Autonomous operations are carried out by the airforce and other military branches regularly.

These drones can fly pretty high, depending on their make and model.

Unlike your drone at home, these autonomous drones don’t have to charge nearly as often. Knowing how long to charge a drone battery will open your eyes to how long autonomous drones can go without fuel.

Warning

Many debates on the ethics of using drones in military operations are due to the collateral damage caused by their usage.

F.A.Q.S

Can you increase a drone’s flight range?

There are a few ways you can increase the range of a drone. First, ensure your firmware is set correctly and up to date. You can also add an antenna to improve the controller range.


What is the highest altitude a drone can fly?

There are commercial drones capable of flying up to 50,000 feet into the air, putting them above even commercial aircraft. The maximum altitude will change depending on the drone itself.


Can you hear a drone at 400 feet?

You can hear a drone that’s only 400 feet above you for the most part, unless it’s a unique model that the Air Force or another military branch has made incredibly silent.


How long can a drone stay in the sky?

That depends mainly on the type of drone and its purpose. Autonomous drone systems carrying out missions can stay in the air for long periods.


STAT: In 2013, around 21 U.S. military drones crashed in various countries around the world. (source)

Beth Huston Profile image