Drone warfare: The New Arms Race for Global Unmanned Aerial Supremacy

The first all drone vs. drone war will come sooner or later.
Drone firing a missile

Most military powers are rushing to produce aerial reconnaissance and combat drones with ever-increasing capacities.

Countries such as Russia, China, India, Israel, and the United States are quickly increasing their drone arsenal, producing an unprecedented arms race. The drone market is becoming more and more refined by the day.

Drones are the ultimate weapons of tomorrow

Fear the Reaper
Fear the Reaper by Ilka Cole, Public Domain.

The usage of drones has been gaining ground. Now, drones are capable of carrying out missions with a high degree of success without endangering operators… And they have proven their worth time and time again on the battlefield.


In addition, every year, drones have more significant mission capabilities, and the main world powers are looking to make the ultimate drone with the most advanced weapons to fulfill any challenge of the modern battlefield.

That’s why having the most cutting-edge drones is a must for any country’s armed forces, and the military industry sector is quickly innovating to outgun the competition.

The start of a new drones arms race

Heron, a clear example of the drones arms race
DRONE HERON by Calips. Licensed under CC by 3.0

The world’s primary military powers create drones seeking to outperform each other’s capabilities. Some of the most representative cases of this arms race are:



Although China lags behind the U.S. in the production of drones, the gap is tightening, and they’re manufacturing more effective drones.

China revealed its latest unmanned aircraft, the CH-6, or Wing Loong-1E. Both have comparable characteristics to the American drones with satisfactory reconnaissance capabilities and precision strikes… and they’re also made at very competitive prices for the world market, which would improve their export potential. In the case of war, sometimes strength lies in numbers, not in technological advancement.


The MQ-9 Reaper is, according to experts, the finest in its class. It can be used from thousands of miles away, and its flight range and weapons systems make it a formidable war machine for military air-to-ground strike operations.


The MQ-9 Reaper surpasses its competitors in range and payload, as well as in-flight times. But the US has other drones with high capabilities such as the General Atomics Avenger or MQ-1 Predator.


1024px Bayraktar Akinci SIHA UAV
Bayraktar Akıncı SİHA by Talha Işık under CC BY-SA 4.0

Turkish drones have been stringing together military successes over the last years in Syria, Libya, and Azerbaijan.

These conflicts have publicized the prowess of Turkish drones such as the Bayraktar Akinci.



Israel is one of the major drone manufacturers in the Middle East and a net technology exporter. It has already developed drones of significant global impact, such as the Heron TP and Hermes 450.


India’s top-secret combat drone project, Ghatak, is reportedly on the way. The Ghatak is being developed by India, but its details remain highly classified.


Russia’s cutting-edge S-70 Okhotnik attack and reconnaissance drone will be used from 2024. It is expected to be capable of autonomous operation, coming back to its base even when losing contact with the operator.


Moral issues with drones

Test Flag Enterprise integrates autonomy into Orange Flag
Test Flag Enterprise integrates autonomy into Orange Flag by Air Force Test Center, Public Domain.

The rapid adoption of drones has brought moral concerns. They fight without situational awareness – and this is a weakness that could lead to errors, and even shooting the wrong target.

These vehicles are autonomous and choose their targets with artificial intelligence and neutralize them with their weapons without human understanding.

Drones are reshaping warfare around the world

It is impossible to predict which country will dominate the drone manufacturing industry as this new arms race is just beginning. The drones created so far have incredible capabilities that are just starting to show their use in modern warfare.


Featured image credit: Drone firing a missile by Pixabay.com