What Drones Does The Navy Use?

what drones does the navy use 3

Have you ever wondered about the drones that the Navy utilizes in their operations? In this article, we will explore the diverse range of drones that the Navy deploys for various purposes. From aerial surveillance to mine detection, these unmanned aircraft play a crucial role in enhancing the Navy’s capabilities. So, fasten your seatbelts as we take a closer look at the cutting-edge technology that empowers the Navy’s operations and helps protect our seas.

Types of Drones Used by the Navy

Fixed-Wing Drones

Fixed-wing drones are one of the most commonly used types of drones by the Navy. These drones are designed with a fixed wing, similar to traditional airplanes. They are highly versatile and can cover large distances efficiently. Fixed-wing drones are essential for long-range surveillance and reconnaissance missions, as they can stay in the air for extended periods. Additionally, they are equipped with advanced imaging technology and sensors to capture high-quality imagery and gather intelligence. Some of the notable fixed-wing drones used by the Navy include the MQ-4C Triton, RQ-21 Blackjack, and RQ-4 Global Hawk.

Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) Drones

Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) drones are another category of drones extensively used by the Navy. These drones are capable of taking off and landing vertically, eliminating the need for runways or landing strips. VTOL drones provide significant advantages in situations where space is limited or where quick deployment is required. The Navy utilizes VTOL drones for various purposes, including intelligence gathering, surveillance, and reconnaissance. Notable examples of VTOL drones used by the Navy are the Fire Scout, ScanEagle, and Skeldar.

Underwater Drones

In addition to aerial drones, the Navy also employs underwater drones to enhance its operational capabilities. Underwater drones, also known as unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs), play a crucial role in gathering valuable data submerged beneath the surface. These drones are equipped with advanced sonar systems and sensors that allow them to navigate and explore the underwater environment with precision. The Bluefin SandShark, SeaGlider Autonomous Underwater Vehicle, and Remus 600 are among the underwater drones utilized by the Navy.


Micro-drones are smaller in size compared to other types of drones, but they still have significant utility for the Navy. These lightweight and compact drones provide the Navy with the ability to conduct close-range reconnaissance missions, especially in urban or confined environments. Micro-drones are often equipped with high-resolution cameras and can easily be carried and deployed by Navy personnel. The Navy relies on micro-drones such as the Black Hornet, Raven, and Puma to gather real-time intelligence and enhance situational awareness.

Rotary-Wing Drones

Rotary-wing drones are yet another type of drones utilized by the Navy. These drones, also known as rotorcraft drones, are equipped with rotating blades that generate lift for vertical takeoff and landing. They provide the Navy with enhanced maneuverability and the ability to hover in place, making them ideal for close-range observation and monitoring. Rotary-wing drones have the advantage of being able to operate in areas where fixed-wing drones may face limitations. Notable rotary-wing drones used by the Navy are the Fire Scout, AirMule, and Hummingbird.

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Importance of Drones in the Navy

Enhanced Surveillance

One of the primary reasons for the Navy’s extensive use of drones is their ability to provide enhanced surveillance capabilities. Drones equipped with high-resolution cameras and sensors can capture detailed imagery and videos in real-time, allowing the Navy to monitor vast areas of interest. This enhanced surveillance capability enables the Navy to gather valuable intelligence, detect potential threats, and maintain situational awareness, both on land and at sea.

Risk Reduction in Combat

The utilization of drones in combat scenarios significantly reduces the risk to Navy personnel. By deploying drones for reconnaissance and target acquisition, the Navy can gather vital information about the enemy’s position and capabilities without putting human lives in jeopardy. Drones can remotely observe hostile territories, assess potential threats, and help develop effective strategies for military operations, reducing the risks associated with direct confrontations.

Reduced Operational Costs

Drones offer cost-saving advantages for the Navy. Compared to manned aircraft or submarines, drones are more economical to operate and maintain. They require fewer crew members to operate, reducing manpower expenses. Additionally, drones are not subject to the same physical limitations and risks as human pilots or divers, which can lead to significant cost savings in terms of training, insurance, and safety protocols. The lower operational costs associated with drones allow the Navy to allocate resources to other critical areas.

Increased Efficiency in Operations

Integrating drones into Navy operations has led to increased efficiency and effectiveness. Drones can cover larger areas and gather data more rapidly than traditional methods, providing real-time information to commanders and decision-makers. The timely availability of actionable intelligence enables the Navy to make informed decisions promptly, leading to better mission planning and execution. With their agility and versatility, drones have become an invaluable asset for the Navy, enhancing operational efficiency across various domains.

Delivery of Supplies

Apart from surveillance and combat-related applications, drones also play a role in supply chain management for the Navy. In remote or inaccessible areas, where conventional means of transportation may be limited, drones can be used to deliver essential supplies such as medical equipment, food, and ammunition. This capability ensures that Navy personnel deployed in challenging environments have access to vital resources, increasing their overall effectiveness and reducing logistical complexities.

What Drones Does The Navy Use?

Fixed-Wing Drones Used by the Navy

MQ-4C Triton

The MQ-4C Triton is a high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft used by the Navy for surveillance and reconnaissance missions. With a wingspan of over 130 feet, the Triton can stay airborne for up to 24 hours, covering vast distances while providing real-time intelligence and surveillance. Equipped with advanced sensors and radar systems, the MQ-4C Triton plays a crucial role in maritime domain awareness, helping the Navy monitor and track potential threats in coastal areas and international waters.

RQ-21 Blackjack

The RQ-21 Blackjack is a small tactical drone used by the Navy for intelligence gathering, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions. With its portable design and autonomous capabilities, the RQ-21 Blackjack can be deployed rapidly from land or ships, providing near-real-time situational awareness to Navy operators. Its versatile payload options enable it to perform various missions, including target detection, communications relay, and battle damage assessment.

RQ-4 Global Hawk

The RQ-4 Global Hawk is a high-altitude, long-endurance surveillance drone that serves as a vital asset for the Navy’s intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities. Equipped with advanced imaging sensors and radar systems, the Global Hawk can monitor vast areas of interest with exceptional resolution and clarity. With a range of over 12,000 nautical miles, the RQ-4 Global Hawk enables the Navy to conduct long-duration missions and gather critical intelligence in both peacetime and combat situations.

Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) Drones Used by the Navy

Fire Scout

The Fire Scout is an autonomous VTOL drone designed for reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition missions. Using its advanced sensors and payload options, the Fire Scout can provide the Navy with real-time, high-resolution imagery and video feeds. With its ability to hover and operate in confined spaces, the Fire Scout is ideal for supporting ground forces and providing commanders with accurate situational awareness.

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The ScanEagle is a small, long-endurance VTOL drone used by the Navy for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions. Equipped with electro-optical and infrared cameras, the ScanEagle can capture detailed imagery and videos in various environmental conditions. Its ability to operate from maritime platforms and land-based sites makes it a versatile asset for the Navy, supporting operations ranging from anti-piracy efforts to coastal surveillance.


The Skeldar is a VTOL drone used by the Navy for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance purposes. With its endurance of up to 5 hours and advanced sensor suite, the Skeldar provides the Navy with real-time situational awareness and enhanced mission flexibility. Its compact design allows for easy deployment from naval vessels, making it an integral part of maritime operations.

What Drones Does The Navy Use?

Underwater Drones Used by the Navy

Bluefin SandShark

The Bluefin SandShark is a small, lightweight underwater drone utilized by the Navy for a range of underwater missions. Equipped with side-scan sonar and acoustic sensors, the SandShark can autonomously gather crucial data about the underwater environment. It is particularly useful in mine countermeasures and intelligence-gathering operations, providing the Navy with intricate details of the seabed and potential underwater threats.

SeaGlider Autonomous Underwater Vehicle

The SeaGlider Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) is a long-range, low-power underwater drone used by the Navy for scientific research and data collection. Propelled by buoyancy changes, the SeaGlider can move through the water with minimal energy consumption, allowing it to operate autonomously for months. The Navy relies on the SeaGlider to conduct oceanographic surveys, monitor marine ecosystems, and gather valuable environmental data.

Remus 600

The Remus 600 is a versatile autonomous underwater drone used by the Navy for a wide range of missions, including mine countermeasures, harbor security, and search and recovery operations. The Remus 600 is equipped with advanced sonar systems, cameras, and navigation sensors, allowing it to operate with precision and gather detailed imagery and data in underwater environments. Its modularity and adaptability make it a valuable asset for the Navy’s diverse underwater operations.

Micro-Drones Used by the Navy

Black Hornet

The Black Hornet is a lightweight micro-drone used by the Navy for close-range surveillance and reconnaissance missions. With its small size and quiet operation, the Black Hornet can be discreetly deployed to gather real-time intelligence in urban or confined environments. Its advanced imaging capabilities and autonomous flight capabilities make it an effective tool for enhancing situational awareness during military operations.


The Raven is a hand-launched micro-drone employed by the Navy for small unit tactical reconnaissance missions. With its aerial reconnaissance capabilities, the Raven provides Navy personnel with real-time situational awareness and helps identify potential threats. Its lightweight design and ease of use enable quick deployment and retrieval, making it a valuable asset for ground forces operating in various terrains.


The Puma is a small, hand-launched micro-drone that provides the Navy with enhanced surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities. With its advanced imaging sensors and endurance of up to two hours, the Puma can gather valuable intelligence and support naval operations in a variety of environments. Its portability and rapid deployment capabilities make it an ideal asset for Navy personnel conducting expeditionary missions.

What Drones Does The Navy Use?

Rotary-Wing Drones Used by the Navy

Fire Scout

The Fire Scout, previously mentioned as a VTOL drone, can also be classified as a rotary-wing drone. The Fire Scout’s ability to hover and maneuver vertically, combined with its autonomous flight capabilities, contributes to its effectiveness in supporting Navy operations. With its advanced sensor suite and payload options, the Fire Scout plays a crucial role in intelligence gathering, surveillance, and target acquisition missions.


The AirMule is an innovative rotary-wing drone used by the Navy for logistics and medical evacuation purposes. Designed to operate in challenging environments, the AirMule can transport cargo and personnel without the need for a pilot on board. Its vertical takeoff and landing capabilities allow it to access remote or confined areas, providing the Navy with increased flexibility in delivering supplies and performing medical evacuations in challenging conditions.


The Hummingbird is a rotary-wing drone used by the Navy for search and rescue missions. With its small size and agility, the Hummingbird can navigate through narrow or obstructed areas to locate and rescue personnel in distress. Equipped with advanced sensors and cameras, the Hummingbird provides real-time situational awareness to support rapid decision-making during critical operations, ultimately saving lives.

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Regulations Surrounding Navy Drone Usage

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Guidelines

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the United States has established guidelines and regulations for the operation of drones, including those used by the Navy. These guidelines ensure the safe and responsible use of drones within national airspace. The Navy must comply with FAA regulations to ensure the lawful and appropriate use of drones, promoting safety and minimizing any potential risks to civilian and military aircraft.

Department of Defense Procedure for Drone Application

The Department of Defense (DoD) has established a comprehensive procedure for the application and operation of drones within military operations, including those conducted by the Navy. A thorough evaluation process is carried out to assess the suitability, capabilities, and risks associated with drone usage. The DoD procedure ensures that all relevant factors, including safety, mission requirements, and legal considerations, are taken into account before authorizing Navy drone operations.

International Maritime Laws

The Navy’s use of drones is also governed by international maritime laws and regulations. These laws aim to ensure safe and responsible maritime activities, including the use of drones in international waters. The Navy must adhere to these laws to maintain good standing within the international community and uphold its commitment to the protection of marine ecosystems and the safety of all maritime stakeholders.

Training Required for Navy Drone Operators

Underwater Drone Operator Training

Navy personnel operating underwater drones undergo specialized training to develop the skills necessary for safe and efficient operation. This training includes theoretical knowledge on drone technology, underwater navigation, sonar systems, and mission planning. Practical training is also provided, equipping operators with the ability to deploy and retrieve underwater drones, interpret and analyze data gathered, and troubleshoot any technical issues that may arise during operations.

Fixed-Wing Drone Operator Training

Navy drone operators tasked with operating fixed-wing drones undergo comprehensive training to ensure their proficiency in operating and maintaining these complex aircraft. The training covers a wide array of topics, including flight principles, systems operation, sensor utilization, mission planning, and emergency procedures. Simulators and hands-on flight training are utilized to provide operators with the necessary skills to safely and effectively conduct surveillance and reconnaissance missions.

Micro-Drone Operator Training

To operate micro-drones effectively, Navy personnel receive specialized training to develop the skills required for close-range surveillance and reconnaissance missions. Training includes theoretical knowledge on micro-drone technology, payload systems, and flight regulations. Practical training focuses on piloting skills, payload utilization, and mission-specific scenarios. This training equips operators with the ability to gather real-time intelligence in challenging environments and enhance overall situational awareness.

Environmental Impact of Navy’s Drone Usage

Impact on Marine Life

The use of drones can have both positive and negative impacts on marine life. Drones equipped with advanced sensors and cameras can assist in marine research and conservation efforts, providing valuable data on marine ecosystems. However, the presence of drones in the water can also cause disturbance to marine animals, potentially altering their natural behavior patterns. It is crucial for the Navy to minimize the impact on marine life by adhering to responsible operating procedures and considering marine wildlife preservation in their drone operations.

Noise Pollution

Drones, particularly larger unmanned aircraft, can generate significant noise levels during operation. This noise can potentially disrupt the marine environment, affecting aquatic organisms and their habitats. To mitigate noise pollution, the Navy employs various techniques such as using quiet propulsion systems and adhering to specific altitude and flight path guidelines. By minimizing noise pollution, the Navy ensures that its drone operations have minimal impact on marine ecosystems.

Impact on Human Life

The deployment of drones by the Navy aims to enhance operational capabilities and reduce risks to human life. By utilizing drones for surveillance and reconnaissance purposes, the need for human personnel to be in potentially dangerous situations is greatly diminished. This reduction in risk improves overall safety for Navy personnel and reduces the likelihood of casualties. By prioritizing the use of drones, the Navy exemplifies its commitment to protecting human life in military operations.

In conclusion, drones play a vital role in the operations of the Navy, providing enhanced surveillance, reducing risks in combat scenarios, decreasing operational costs, increasing operational efficiency, and facilitating the delivery of supplies. The Navy utilizes various types of drones, including fixed-wing drones, vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) drones, underwater drones, micro-drones, and rotary-wing drones, each fulfilling specific operational requirements. Regulations and training procedures ensure the safe and responsible use of drones, while consideration is given to the potential environmental impact, with measures in place to minimize disturbance to marine life and reduce noise pollution. With their versatility and advanced capabilities, drones have become indispensable tools for the Navy, revolutionizing the way they gather intelligence, execute operations, and protect the lives of their personnel.

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Chris Wright

About the Author: rcmonkey

Chris's dedication to mastering the art of drone piloting and aerial photography quickly became evident. He spent countless hours researching, studying, and practicing flight techniques to unlock the full potential of his drones.