How Much Does a Military Drone Cost? – 2023 Updated

Written by

John Cotton


Logan Miller

how much does a military drone cost

How much does a military drone cost? Well, a small military drone price tag may be at 700,000 US dollars.

However, the actual price of a drone actually varies depending on the specs and features of the equipment in question. The most expensive military drone can actually go as high as $40 million.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) like military drones have attracted great interest due to their high-end tech and combat capabilities. Here’s all you need to know about them.

Cost of Military Drone

For the purpose of this article, drone plane costs will be discussed according to their size type: micro, small, medium, and large drones.

1. Micro-Drones


Micro-drones are the smallest type since they literally come in a size similar to that of insects. These drones are usually only equipped with cameras and mainly function as surveillance drones that transmit extensive image data per hour of flight.

The best example of a micro-drone is the Black Hornet RPS, with an average cost of $195,000. It’s extremely light, has a 25-minute flight time, and produces minimal noise during flight.

2. Small Drones


While these drones are not as small as micro ones, their compact design is still one of their main selling points, considering they never weigh over 25 kilograms.

A great example of a small drone is the Fulmar mini unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). It weighs 19 kilos, has a length of 3.1 meters, and boasts an aerodynamic design, which allows it to fly up to eight hours straight. It is priced at $1.1 million.

On the lower end of the price range is the X-61A Gremlin, with a length of 4.2 meters and a wingspan of 3.47 meters. It is priced at around $700,000.

Also well-known for its cheap pricing is the Kamikaze drones, which are loitering munition drones that have a length of 3.5 meters and a wingspan of 2.5 meters. The kamikaze drone price is usually around $20,000 to $22,000.

This lower UAV price is due to the fact that Kamikaze drones are military attack drones that are designed for one-time use; their main feature is to explode on impact.

3. Medium-sized Drones


Now, we are approaching really expensive drones territory. Medium-sized drones are used for target acquisition, surveillance, and intelligence functions. Additionally, they have improved endurance and medium-range flight capabilities.

IAI Heron is a good example of a medium-sized drone. To civilians, this drone looks similar to a typical aircraft.

It has a length of around 27 feet and a wingspan of around 54 feet. The Heron can fly as high as most commercial aircraft. Its average drone price is around $140 million.

4. Large Drones


Most large drones are combat drones, which means they are usually equipped with bombs and missiles. They are also capable of heavy-duty performance, such as going on 14-hour non-stop flights.

The MQ-1 (formerly: RQ-1) Predator is a large drone that measures 27 feet in length and 49 feet in wingspan. It is armed with missiles for armed reconnaissance. The drone is estimated to be worth $40 million. Another drone within the same price range is the MQ-9 Reaper. For your information, the average Reaper drone cost is $32 million.

Lastly, one of the most expensive drones on this list is the RQ-4 Global Hawk, priced at $220 million. It’s no surprise this UAV cost this much when considering the Global Hawk’s impressive range and flight time (it can fly 30 hours without refueling).

This drone can fly higher than commercial air traffic and is capable of scanning phone communication signals for purposes of surveillance.

Detail Prices for Each Type of Military Drones

Refer to the table below for a concise rundown of the discussion from the previous section. The drone types mentioned above are some of the best and most widely used drones in the military today.

Name of Drone Cost of a military Drone (In US dollars)
Black Hornet RPS 195 thousand
Fulmar mini-UAV 1.1 million
X-61A Gremlin 700 thousand
Kamikaze Drone 22 thousand
IAI Heron 140 million
MQ-1 Predator 40 million
MQ-9 Reaper 32 million
RQ-4 Global Hawk 220 million

The top drone in this list, in terms of functionality, is the RQ-4 Global Hawk. It is also the highest-priced drone on the list, with a price tag of $220 million.

Factors Affecting the Cost of US Military Drones


As mentioned earlier, each drone is priced differently according to the sophistication of its systems and general technology. Below are some of the factors that determine UAV pricing.

  1. Flight range and endurance – drones with higher flight altitude range and longer flight time require a longer research and development process, a more sophisticated design/plan, and better materials.
  2. Technology and system – more advanced technology involves higher costs of development and operation
  3. Built-in capabilities – other capabilities, such as added weaponry and surveillance tech, require a higher budget as well.

Why Are Drones So Expensive?


The cost to build a drone is largely the reason why it is a very expensive piece of technology. Not only are the materials costly, but the matters leading to drone production are an expensive process as well.

First comes a lengthy phase of research and development. Then comes the tedious process of attaining a variety of quality certifications and passing regulations of numerous regulatory bodies.

Maintenance and repair are other succeeding expenses. All in all, making flying drones such an expensive endeavor.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are military drones available for public purchase?

No, military drones are considered controlled items and are not open for purchase to the general public. This is a different case from purchasing commercial drones, which are easily available to everyone.

Are military drones cheaper than planes?

Smaller UAVs are cheaper than commercial airliners, whose cost is as high as $200 million. However, large UAVs can cost just as much, if not more, than commercial airline planes.

Are military drones cost-effective?

Military drones have the potential to be cost-effective; however, this cannot be appreciated at the moment because it is still a fairly recent endeavor in the field of military operations and warfare.


Hopefully, this article has answered your question as to how much does a military drone cost. This read intends to open discussion on the technologies introduced to protect us and the nation and pique the interest of the public towards the new advancements in the field of military tech.

We are as well invited to open questions that are in need of addressing, such as whether or not these drones and similar military tech have ethical trade-offs or may open the possibility of disrupting civilian privacy and security.

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