The cost of military drones has been a controversial issue for many years. Some believe that the cost is too high, while others believe that the cost is worth it for the benefits that these drones provide. The cost of military drones varies depending on the type of drone, the size of the drone, and the features that the drone has.
In this blog post, GuardYourHealth will provide you the cost of US military drones and some information related to drone pilots.
A Brief Overview of Military Drones
Drones operated by UAS are commonly utilized in open and covert warfare abroad. In essence, drones make it possible to fly heavily armed systems from a distance. This enables the pilots to exert great destructive power at a secure distance.
The military and intelligence services also employ drones to track enemy movements, scout during firefights and can be very helpful in a manhunt. According to Britannica, the MQ-1 Predator is the unmanned aircraft system that is most frequently employed in battle.
Military drones are essential for aerial reconnaissance for clandestine operations and aerial support in battle scenarios. According to the U.S. Air Force, unmanned aerial systems were a crucial component of the country’s counterterrorism effort in both cases.
Military Drone Cost
As we previously stated, the price of a US military drone can reach tens of thousands of dollars. The typical Predator drone that the military is known to operate (in Afghanistan and Iraq) costs about $40 million per system. Here is a picture of the expensive Predator drone:
Military Drone Types
1. Micro-Drones and Nano-Drones
These “insect-sized” drones are so tiny that you frequently see them in big-budget motion pictures. Despite their small size, these drones are fully armed with cutting-edge cameras for surveillance and can typically digitally transmit image data back to their terminals.
The Black Hornet, for instance, is 1 inch by 4 inches and costs roughly $195,000 each unit.
2. Miniature Tactical Drones
These are lightweight and small (albeit not as small as micro- and nano-drones). Soldiers can carry them in their pockets and throw them into the air. The FULMAR is one illustration. It has a maximum range of 90 kilometers and can fly for 12 hours. Another illustration is the Raven, which may sell for more than $35,000 per unit and has the following appearance:
3. Small to Medium Reconnaissance Drones
The abbreviations HALE and MALE, which stand for High Altitude Long Endurance and Medium Altitude Long Endurance, respectively, are also frequently used to refer to these drones. ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance) operations are their main usage.
This sort of drone is Heron. It is employed for reconnaissance by the United States, Canada, Australia, Turkey, Morocco, and India. Around $140 million was spent on 1 Heron and 1 ground station.
4. Massive Surveillance and Combat Drones
In particular, among the American Armed Forces, these are the military drones that are more known. Through a satellite link-up, they are controlled by pilots on the ground. These drones are typically sent on extrajudicial killing missions while armed.
The Global Hawk, which is used over war areas and has a maximum flying altitude of 18,000 meters, is a well-known illustration. However, the Global Hawk does not engage in combat, but rather monitors call from mobile phones for signals.
Interesting fact: The $220 million Global Hawk that came dangerously close to attacking Iran in 2019 was purchased.
The US military uses Reaper drones to deliver air-to-surface missiles and laser-guided bombs. They have a range of more than a thousand miles and can fly continuously for 14 hours. The UK, Netherlands, France, and Spain air forces also employ Reapers. An average Reaper costs $32 million!
Are Drones Cheaper Than Manned Aircraft?
Drones are much less expensive than human planes. The cost of a General Atomics MQ-9A Reaper is approximately $3M per aircraft, as opposed to the over $12M in personnel expenditures needed for a manned aircraft, according to data from The Economist.
The lesson is that drones require about one-fourth of manned aircraft’s purchase and administrative costs, even if the source acknowledges that the two cannot be directly compared.
Which Military Drone Is the Most Expensive?
The size, power, and operating range of a drone affect its cost. Unmanned aerial systems can be purchased at a reasonable price compared to manned aircraft, while none are particularly affordable.
The Northrop Grumann X-47B, which costs about $405M per unit, is the most costly military drone among those listed by Military Machine. This drone is nearly the size of a strike fighter and is categorized as an unmanned combat aircraft.
The Grumman X-47B is the first drone with autonomous aerial refueling capabilities, which is one of the reasons for its prohibitively expensive acquisition cost.
Other unmanned systems range in price from less than one million dollars to hundreds of millions, even if they might not have the same cutting-edge technology and capabilities.
Here is a list of the drones that militaries and governments utilize the most frequently, along with an estimate of their cost:
- Insitu ScanEagle: Around $800k per unit
- Chengdu Pterodactyl I: Around $1M
- Kratos XQ-58 Valkyrie: Around $3M per Unit
- Boeing A160 Hummingbird: Around $6M
- MQ-8 Fire Scout: Around $15M
- Thales Watchkeeper WK450: Around $16M
- Dassault nEUROn: Around $25M
- IAI Eitan: Around $35M
- MQ-9 Reaper: Around $32M
- EADS Talarion: Around $80M
- Turkish Aerospace Anka: Around $100M
- Northrop Grumman X-47B: Around $405M
How Much Is A Predator Drone?
According to Military Factory, an average General Atomics MQ-1 Predator costs $40M. Despite its cost, the Predator has been an essential piece of American military equipment in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
General Atomics produces the MQ-1 Predator. The MQ-1 Predator, operated by the CIA, was first used for military surveillance in 1995 when the drone’s developmental faults were sorted out.
A 55-person control team for the Predator is required, including a pilot and sensor operators. The control crew uses the Predator Primary Satellite Link to communicate with the aircraft.
Thanks to a triangular retractable landing system, the Predator can land and take off on short runways.
How Much Does a Reaper Drone Cost?
For high-profile targets, the US Air Force uses a Reaper Drone. This autonomous aircraft can fly for more than 24 hours, can see in great detail from a distance of over 10,000 feet, and is fitted with missiles and lasers.
Navmar Applied Sciences Corporation estimates that the price of a Reaper Drone is roughly $32 million. The price is really high, and it keeps going up with every passing year because it is not an essential piece of military gear. A Reaper Drone only cost $14 million in 2008.
What Is the Cheapest Military Drone?
Gremlins are inexpensive UAs that cost no more than $700,000. These military drones are among the least expensive, and DARPA is creating hundreds of them. Gremlins are made to fly into places with strict regulations before manned planes do.
Compared to other bigger, better-equipped drones, these ones are less expensive to operate. Although they lack lasers or missiles, they are valuable for gathering information before manned aircraft.
How Much Does It Cost To Maintain a Drone?
A PDF from the Bard College Center for the Study of the Drone claims that the US spent over $9 billion on drone purchases and money on R&D, testing, and evaluation in 2019.
Although there is no information on the specific costs associated with maintaining military drones, this graph from the National Center for Biotechnology Information shows the relative failure rates for five different types of aerial assault weapons.
Each drone’s maintenance cycle is based on its proportional failure rate. More specialized labor hours will be needed for a drone’s long-term operation the more frequently it enters a soft failure stage.
Despite the fact that drones are by definition unmanned, several people are still needed for a mission to be successful. Logistically, the purchase price of a drone must be considered along with the cost of upkeep.
How Much Does an Hourly Military Drone Cost?
According to the Friends Committee on National Legislation, one of the bigger armed systems is the Global Hawk, which can cost up to $15k per hour. Depending on the type of drone, a UAS operator needs a different amount of money per hour.
The complexity of the drone determines the number of crew members and equipment needed at the base in order to operate it effectively. The Economist claims that the decision to replace human pilots with armed drones is not just based on financial considerations.
Do Military Drones Have Guns?
Instead of using firearms, most unmanned aerial systems shoot missiles. However, according to the BBC, the Tikad drone can carry an automatic machine gun and fire grenades in flight. A controller is used to discharge the weapons.
A drone with a gun would seem to be used to lessen troop requirements and military casualties. However, critics caution that the possibility of killing unarmed bystanders increases with the use of small weapons drones. Tikad drones are sold on the civilian market, although the cost was not made public.
The FAA looked into ThrowFlame, a company that makes unmanned civilian aerial systems when a video surfaced online showing one of the drones using a gun. Extreme Tech claims that the FAA issued a warning but decided against issuing any sanctions.
How Much Does a Drone Strike Cost?
A drone strike can cost the US military up to $15,000 per hour. The type of drone utilized in the strike, the tools employed, and the missiles dropped are all taken into account in this price. The Predator Drone, for instance, costs about $12 million. An additional $70,000 or more is required for every missile that the Predator fires.
It goes without saying that the cost of a drone attack can approach billions of dollars, depending on the quantity and type of missiles used.
Can You Make a Living as a Drone Pilot?
Both the military and the civilian world are using drones more and more frequently. Many amateur drone enthusiasts have discovered a way to make money from their hobbies as new technology continues to offer higher-grade drones at more competitive costs.
The range of careers open to professional drone pilots is expanding as more businesses use drones for land scouting, surveillance, and the arts. Drones are employed outside of the military in the commercial sector and even in some government positions.
There are numerous methods for a civilian drone pilot to make a living. The prevalence of freelance gig labor is rising, particularly as members of Generation Z start their college careers and enter the workforce. Earning $500–600 a week as a freelance drone photographer is possible.
What Do Military Drone Pilots Get Paid?
Military drone pilots can earn more than $61,000 a year, with the average income being $57,000. Contrast this with the pay of military pilots who fly manned aircraft, which ranges from $82,000 to over $100,000 on average.
The pay for a pilot varies depending on where in the nation they operate, how much experience they have, and the kind of equipment and drones they use.
Are Drone Pilots in Demand?
According to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, there is a huge need for drone pilots. By 2025, the drone pilot sector is expected to add over 100,000 new jobs. Along with a number of employment options, military service also provides opportunities in combat and search and rescue scenarios.
Future Prospects for Drone Pilots
There will always be a demand for qualified drone operators as long as the US military is deployed on humanitarian missions across the globe. However, as drones are increasingly incorporated into industrial tools, several civilian career routes are emerging outside of a military technology vocation.
Governmental control over the use of drones by the military and the public is not very extensive. Although there is a misconception that drone-heavy warfare is a safer alternative to conventional fighting, the reality is more nuanced.
The topic of unmanned aircraft systems may come under intense examination due to President Biden’s decision to remove troops from Afghanistan, which could impact the locations where drone pilots may be deployed.
Drone pilots can look forward to a future. Demand for drone pilots, operators, and cinematographers is on the rise in the civilian sector. As the economy adjusts to a new generation of workers, new job opportunities and alternative working methods are sprouting up.
The following is a list of potential careers for drone operators, taken from Commercial UAV News:
- Map-making: UAV pilots utilize the systems to take high-resolution pictures of a scene to produce a real-time map of the area, including terrain and structures.
- Modeling: Like mapping, modeling uses the camera on the system to produce a precise representation of the surroundings. The key distinction is that modeling creates a three-dimensional representation that may be used in realistic walk-through simulations.
- Thermal imaging: There are a plethora of real-world applications for thermal imaging. Drones that use thermal imaging are frequently used in law enforcement, firefighting, and rescue operations.
- Real Estate photography is advantageous to real estate advertisements even though it is a little less strategic. A proficient drone photographer can capture a property’s layout from the ideal aerial perspective.
- Inspections: Drones can be used for inspections in dangerous or hard-to-reach places. A knowledgeable person must operate the aerial imaging system.
- Cinematography: Drone use is becoming more and more common in the movie business.
They are perfect for smooth filming because of their sophisticated gyroscopic technology and a great capacity to identify and track faces and body motions.
Event Photography: Drones are becoming increasingly common in event photography, sports coverage, big-group shots, and more!
Industrial and Civil Service Use of Military Drones
Many veterans making the transition to the civilian workforce could look for positions in their particular field. Because of their thorough training and discipline, military drone operators are highly regarded in the civilian sector.
The International Committee of the Red Cross claims that the legality depends on the local laws and if the drone is armed. Armed drones are not explicitly forbidden by international law. They are subject to international law just like any weapons system, and the government controls them, but their use differs from their existence.
Surveillance UAVs are the drones that are most frequently utilized in both the military and the private sector. Military experts may also find work instructing others on how to fly drones or heading a team in drone maintenance.
Drones With Weapons Are Illegal for Civilians
Not all military drones are equipped with weapons, and some have civil use as well. But civilian use of weaponized aerial warfare equipment is prohibited. Regulation of civilian use of weaponized aerial systems is likely to expand as drone prices become more accessible to the general public.
However, some businesses take advantage of technical shortcomings to boost the drones’ capacity for fire. For instance, ThrowFlame offers a $1,500 attachment that performs exactly what the business name implies.
Given that the technology has many acceptable civil applications, including as forestry and wildfire prevention, ThrowFlame contends that the attachment does not amount to weaponization.
However, Extreme Tech reports that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is empowered to levy hefty fines against citizens who misuse UAS’s ability to be turned into weapons. Beyond that, the criminal justice system will hold citizens liable for any harm or activities brought on by a weaponized drone.
How Fast Can A Military Drone Fly?
130-foot wingspan, 32,000 lb takeoff weight, 391 mph top speed, 60,000-foot service ceiling, and enough thrust to stay aloft for more than 32 hours.
How Far Can Military Drones Fly?
NATO type 10,000 ft (3,000 m) altitude, up to 50 km range. Tactical 18,000 ft (5,500 m) altitude, about 160 km range. MALE (medium altitude, long endurance) up to 30,000 ft (9,000 m) and range over 200 km.
How Many Drones Does The US Have?
According to the FAA, there are now almost 900,000 drones registered in the United States.
How long can military drones fly?
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