Combat drones are used in the military, and they are under real-time human control. Despite their wide range, some of the top military drones have proven to be more powerful due to their high-end features. Also, countries like the US, UK, Italy, and France are already employing these drones to complete military missions, including armed reconnaissance (ISR), precision-strike missions, and border and wide-area surveillance.
Accordingly, we've outlined the top five military drones in the world based on their payload capacity and weapons onboard. They include:
1. Predator C Avenger:
Predator C Avenger is a jet-powered Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA‑ASI). As a UAS system, it is a remotely-piloted drone; hence, there is no need for a pilot onboard the drone during flight. The first flight (Maiden flight) of this military drone was carried out in April 2009. On the other hand, this system was designed to offer enhanced combat capabilities and quick-response for the US Air Force (USAF) as well as other allied forces.
The Predator C Avenger was designed to be powerful, and today, it is used to carry bombs and ammunition as well as Hellfire missiles. In terms of specification, it has a length of 13m and a wingspan of 20m. Its total payload capacity is 2948kg, maximum takeoff weight is 8,255kg, while its fuel carrying capacity is 3,583kg. Also, it has a maximum airspeed of 400 KTAS, maximum Altitude 50,000 ft., and 20 hours of endurance time.
2. MQ-9B SkyGuardian:
MQ-9B SkyGuardian is another top military drone, and it is a successor to the MQ-9 series RPAS operated by the United Kingdom, United States, France, and Italy. The first flight of the second MQ-9B SkyGuardian was September 2018. And like the Predator C Avenger, this is also a UAV vehicle that was developed by GA-ASI. Reportedly, this drone flew for over 48 consecutive hours in April 2017, and as such, it set a new endurance record for GA-ASI aircraft.
Aside from that, the design of this top military drone by the UK Def Stan 00-970 design and airworthiness standards, as well as, the Nato STANAG 4671 UAV system airworthiness requirements. For its specification, the MQ-9B SkyGuardian has a length of 11.7m, a wingspan of 24m, and a payload capacity of 2155 kg. Its maximum gross takeoff weight is 5670 kg, and it can fly at altitudes above 40,000ft. This drone has a fuel capacity of 2721 kg, a maximum airspeed of 210 KTAS, and a maximum endurance of over 40 hours.
3. Predator B (MQ-9 Reaper):
The Predator B (MQ-9 Reaper) was also developed by the GA-ASI, and it is an unmanned aerial vehicle for the US Air Force. This military drone can perform coordination, strike, and reconnaissance against high-value, fleeting, and time-sensitive targets. However, the Predator C Avenger has higher operational and transit speeds in comparison to the Predator® B -series aircraft.
Nonetheless, this variant can still offer quick response and rapid repositioning that results in improved mission flexibility and survivability. On the same note, it is twice as fast as the Predator, its predecessor, and it offers 500% more payload. And as for specifications, it can reach maximum altitudes up to 50,000ft. It has a maximum speed of 240k, and flight endurance of 27 hours.
4. Heron TP:
The Heron TP (Eitan) MALE military drone is also an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). It was developed by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and unveiled in the Paris Air Show held in June 2007. Also, Eitan was designed to meet the mission needs of the armed forces. Some of these needs include surveillance, intelligence gathering, missile defense, battle damage assessment, and target acquisition.
The Heron TP has a spanning of 26m, and it can reach an altitude of 45,000ft above commercial traffic. It also has a maximum speed of 220kt, a maximum payload weight of 2,700kg, and a maximum permissible takeoff weight of 5,670kg. Eitan has a mission endurance for up to 36 hours in all weather conditions.
5. The CH-5:
Caihong 5 (CH-5) or Rainbow 5 is a UAV drone developed by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC). The CH-5 was introduced in November 2016, and it has form & functions that are similar to the American MQ-9 Reaper UCAV. This drone can perform combat missions, target positioning, surveillance, patrol, and reconnaissance.
The CH-5 drone has a 68.8 ft wind span, and it can reach a speed of 118k. It has a maximum takeoff weight of 3,300kg. Likewise, its payload capacity is 1,200kg, and it can offer a maximum endurance of 60 hours. In 2018, CASC revealed that it plans on fitting a new heavy fuel engine on this drone to increase its endurance (to 60 hours) and range ( to over 10,000 kilometers).
These are some of the top military drones that are employed by the armed forces in warfare. These UAV drones can be remotely controlled to perform several military missions. What's more, they are continually being updated to meet the trends in technology.