How Much Does A Military Drone Cost? [Updated 2024]

Military drones play a significant role in counter-terrorism efforts in the USA. These technologically advanced aerial systems offer incredible power and capabilities. However, the cost factor might astonish many.

In this article, we delve into the intriguing realm of military drones, exploring their costs, diverse types, and the advantageous impact they bring to warfare. Here, we explore how much does a military drone cost.

How Much Does A Military Drone Cost?

Military drones are available in diverse sizes and shapes, each possessing unique capabilities, leading to significant price variations. Sources reveal that the lowest-priced military drones cost tens of thousands of dollars. In contrast, the most advanced models carry a staggering price tag of $25 million.

The General Atomics MQ-1 Predator holds the distinction of being the extensively used unmanned aircraft vehicle in present-day warfare. This highly valued drone carries a price of approximately $40 million per unit. Despite the high cost, the Predator has been invaluable in US operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Types of Military Drones

Types of Military DronesMilitary drones come in various sizes and shapes. Each design serves a specific purpose. Get ready to be amazed by the incredible diversity of military drones! From small, nimble quadcopters that can zip around corners to massive, high-altitude surveillance drones that can stay in the air for days on end, there’s a drone out there to suit every military need.

The world of military drones has got you covered. Whether you’re in search of impressive speed and maneuverability, or a stealthy drone, there are options to meet your needs. 

Micro-Drones and Nano-Drones

Micro-drones and nano-drones are the smallest types of military drones. The soldiers use them for surveillance operations. Multiple countries use the Black Hornet in their armed forces. These countries include the United States, France, Germany, Australia, and the United Kingdom. It is a widely utilized drone in military operations. With a length of 10cm and a rotor span of 12cm, the Black Hornet weighs only 20 grams.

Despite its small size, the Hornet packs three surveillance cameras into its nose. The original PD-100 model cost around $195,000 per drone when the UK Ministry of Defense spent $31m to buy 160 units in 2015. Since then, the cost has come down significantly.

Small Tactical Drones

Small tactical drones are lightweight and serve various purposes such as surveillance, reconnaissance, and target acquisition. They are cheaper than larger drones and can have prices from $40,000 to $500,000.The Switchblade drone is the tactical drone that is being used for reconnaissance, and target acquisition.

In 2011, AeroVironment unveiled the Switchblade 300 drone, which revolutionized air combat missions. Switchblade 300 units typically cost between $45,000 and $55,000 per. A larger and more feature-rich Switchblade 600 anti-armor version drone was released in 2020. A single Switchblade 600 drone costs approximately $1,299, and the price increases as more functions are added.

Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) Drones

MALE drones are larger and more expensive than small tactical drones. Drones for observation, reconnaissance, and strikes fly at medium altitudes and cost between $10 million and $15 million.

High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) Drones

HALE drones, or High Altitude Long Endurance drones, excel in operating at high altitudes for extended periods. They are utilized primarily for surveillance and reconnaissance missions. These advanced military aircraft offer exceptional endurance capabilities.

The price tag for a single HALE drone can reach approximately $130 million. Their high cost reflects their advanced technology and specialized capabilities.

Benefits of Military Drones

Benefits of Military DronesMilitary drones have various benefits, which is why they are so widely used in modern warfare. Below are a few benefits of military drones:

Remote Control

Military drones offer the main benefit of remote control. This allows the pilots to operate the drones from a safe location. Thus, it reduces the risk of casualties.

Quick Response Times

Military drones can react quickly and effectively to attacks or specific information. This allows the military to respond to threats in real time. This ability helps in crucial situations. 

Lower Production and Upkeep Costs

Military drones are generally less expensive than manned aircraft, which can cost upwards of $70 million. Additionally, the production and upkeep costs of military drones are lower than those of planes.

Reduced Training and Maintenance Costs

The cost of training air traffic controllers and other maintenance personnel can be decreased for the military. This is because drones can be operated by a smaller team of specialists.

Increased Safety

Military drones save more lives than they take. This is because they reduce the number of troops required to be deployed. Additionally, they limit civilian deaths compared to conventional air strikes.

Ongoing Observation

Drones can conduct ongoing observation, which puts pressure on terrorist groups. This can help prevent attacks and protect civilians.

Effective Targeting

Military drones are effective in eliminating targets that are effectively camouflaged. This makes them a valuable asset in modern warfare.

Future Advancements

Drones have a lot of space for technical advancement in the future. For instance, engineers are working on allowing them to fix themselves, land themselves, and remain airborne for months rather than days.

Careers in Drone Operation

The demand for skilled drone operators is increasing, and there are various career opportunities in this field. Some of the most in-demand drone-related jobs include:

  • Drone pilots
  • Drone engineers
  • Drone technicians
  • Drone software developers


How Much is a Military Drone Worth?

The cost of military drones varies widely based on their size, capabilities, and technology. Prices can range from tens of thousands of dollars to over $25 million. Factors like payload capacity, endurance, range, and sensor capabilities influence the overall cost.

It’s essential to consider the specific requirements and operational needs when evaluating the price of a military drone.

Why do Military Drones Have Such a Wide Price Range?

The wide price range is due to variations in size, capabilities, and technology. Smaller drones with basic functionalities are more affordable, while larger drones with advanced sensors and specialized features command higher prices. Sophistication, range, endurance, and payload capacity are key factors that influence the cost of military drones.

Are Military Drones Cost-effective Compared to Traditional Manned Aircraft?

Yes, military drones are generally considered cost-effective compared to manned aircraft. Drones eliminate the need for human pilots, reducing costs associated with training, salaries, and safety measures. Operating remotely eliminates the need for on-site personnel and infrastructure.

Overall maintenance and operational costs are often lower for drones compared to manned aircraft.

What are Additional Expenses Associated with Military Drones?

In addition to the upfront cost, there are ongoing expenses to consider. These may include maintenance, software updates, payload upgrades, training for operators, and supporting infrastructure like ground control stations and communication systems.

Regular maintenance and repairs are necessary to ensure optimal performance and reliability, adding to the overall expenses.

Can the Price of Military Drones Change Over Time?

The price of military drones can change over time due to technological advancements. Manufacturing processes and economies of scale also influence pricing. Market demand plays a significant role in determining drone prices.

Newer models may benefit from cost reductions while incorporating new features and capabilities can increase the price. Additionally, geopolitical factors, inflation, and procurement programs can influence the pricing of military drones.


Military drones are an essential tool in modern warfare. While they may be expensive, their benefits outweigh the costs. Military drones come in various sizes and shapes, each designed to serve a specific purpose. The small military drone black hornet costs $195,000, the Switchblade 300 costs $45,000, MALE drones cost between $10 million and $15 million, and Hale drones can cost approximately $130 million.

They offer remote control, quick response times, lower production and upkeep costs, reduced training and maintenance costs, increased safety, ongoing observation, effective targeting, and future advancements. The demand for skilled drone operators is increasing, and there are various career opportunities in this field.