Are you curious about drones and what they’re capable of? Do you want to know which is the most powerful or the most expensive drone in the world? In this article, you’ll learn loads about the most expensive drone on the market and its impressive features. You’ll also find out which drone is considered the most powerful on Earth and how it measures up.
Over the past few years, the global drone industry has exploded in growth. Drones have proven incredibly useful across a wide variety of industries, from agriculture and emergency services to military operations and mining. In this article, we dive into the world of the most powerful drone, the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper, and the most pricey commercial drone out there: the Lockheed Martin Indago 3. We’ll give you the lowdown on their standout features and specs, and, of course, their price tag, so you can learn what makes them so special in this ever-evolving, competitive new field.
When you think of “drones,” what comes to mind? If you’re not so tech-savvy, or a little out of the loop, you may be thinking about those remote-controlled, toy quadrocopters. However, for those more up to speed on today’s drone industry, you might be visualizing hundreds of different types of unmanned aircraft, utilized for countless different purposes and ranging from the aforementioned children’s toys to Boeing’s new unmanned fighter jet, the MQ-28 Ghost Bat1.
From 2022 to 2023, the global drone industry grew 25% to a whopping US$11 Billion according to a report by The Business Research Company (purchase here2). Large, commercial drones are now used across a variety of industries: agriculture, emergency services, military, and mining to name a few. However, smaller, hobby drones are also more popular than ever, with their fair share of commercial applications such as real estate photography and racing.
For more information on drone surveying and the use and application of a surveying drone, you can check out this article HERE.
In this article, you will learn more about some of the most expensive drones in the world and their uses, and receive a crash course in their features and where you can find them.
What is the most powerful drone?
To determine which of the world’s drones is most powerful, we must first define “power.” Google “power definition” and one of the top results is “the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events.” For the mathematical among us, power is equal to “work done over time.” Combine the two definitions and the world’s most powerful drone could be considered the one that can most efficiently and effectively impact world events.
The General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper immediately springs to mind due to its incredible capacity for destruction (for better or worse). Powered (pardon the pun) by a 950-shaft-horsepower, Honeywell turboprop engine3, this monster of a drone can carry a maximum payload of 3,800lb for 14 hours. Additionally, given the Reaper is rigged to carry 4 Hellfire missiles4, it’s safe to say this drone meets our definition of the most powerful drone in the world.
What is the most expensive drone in the world?
If there’s one word that doesn’t seem to phase US lawmakers, it’s “expensive,” particularly when it comes to defense. Earlier this year, the Biden-Harris administration proposed an FY24 budget of a staggering US$842 Billion for the Department of Defense. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that the MQ-9 Reaper6 is one of, if not the most, expensive drones in the world, with a price tag of approximately US$32 million a pop.
But this article would get very boring, very quickly if we focused purely on the Reaper. For that reason, we’ve dug a little deeper and found the most expensive drone in the civilian category.
The Lockheed Martin Indago 35 is a relatively small, lightweight drone that is utilized by civilian businesses and militaries alike. It has a built-in camera and while it also has a small maximum payload, the camera is high quality and the drone’s flight time, maximum speed and range are where it shines, justifying its hefty price tag.
How much is the most expensive drone in the world?
The Indago 3 costs a massive US$25,000 brand new, and this may vary depending on the specific model of Indago purchased. Which one you need would depend on the various operational requirements of your business, and if it is being utilized for civilian or military operations.
It is worthwhile to note that while there have been more expensive models in the past, and future prototypes with higher price tags revealed, the Indago 3 is the most expensive drone that is widely commercially available, and still in use to this day, therefore we will label it as the most expensive commercial drone.
What are the features (specs) of the most expensive drone in the world?
The Indago 3 is compact and engineered to provide top-tier aerial imagery and intelligence to first responders, military personnel, and commercial operators. Its lightweight and durable makeup means it’s easy to transport and use in challenging environments. It’s not your average drone.
Its key features and specs include:
➢ Gross Takeoff Weight: 5lb
➢ Wingspan: 32 inches
➢ Endurance: 50-70 minutes depending on payload, which may include electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) or high-resolution still cameras, or laser illuminators.
➢ Air Data Link Range: 10-12km (6.2 – 7.4 miles)
➢ Radio Range: 20-30km (12.4 – 18.6 miles)
The Indago 3 also boasts an advanced autopilot system allowing for autonomous slow and steady flight, route planning, and mission management, and is designed to operate in vigorous weather conditions like rain, wind, and snow, making it an excellent choice for use in disaster response and search and rescue missions.
Is it easy to fly?
Whether or not a drone is easy to control comes down to several factors, and user experience and skill level are paramount among them. If you were to pick up a controller for a drone for the very first time, and it was the Indago 3, would it be “easy” to fly? Most likely not! Especially when compared with some of the remote-controlled toys we discussed earlier in this article.
However, if you’re a seasoned veteran at flying most drones, and have a business operating large commercial UAVs, you’ll probably find flying the Indago 3 to be a piece of cake, especially given its autopilot capabilities, and the advancement of drone controllability, return-to-home features, and anti-collision software in recent years.
Where is it manufactured?
While an exact location of manufacture doesn’t appear to be available to the public, it is safe to assume that the Indago 3 is made (or, at least, assembled) in the USA. Lockheed Martin has several manufacturing facilities across the US, including in California, Georgia, and Florida.
It’s important to consider that many tech components are manufactured in other areas of the world, in particular in Asia, and may be shipped to the US and combined with American-made parts to create the Indago 3.
Where can you buy the most expensive drone?
While these drones are readily available and used the world over, it seems the best way to purchase one is by contacting Lockheed Martin directly to request a quote. This may be due to the military capabilities of the drone, as well as the deep ties the company has to US Defense, forcing the company to carefully vet who they do business with.
You can read more about the Indago 3 and its variants via the link provided earlier in this article and you can contact the Lockheed Martin team here6.
Is the most expensive drone worth it?
As with any product on the market in any industry, whether a product has value comes down to how well it meets the needs of its target market, that is, the individual customers and businesses who purchase it.
However, given Lockheed Martin’s credibility and track record as a leading aviation, aerospace, and defense contractor corporation, it’s a fairly safe bet to say this product is a worthwhile purchase. Don’t take our word for it, though, the Swiss Army has just made this bet too, signing a deal with Lockheed Martin, who will supply the country with Indago’s fitted to their exacting needs. While details of the deal have been largely kept under wraps, it is another safe bet to assume the deal would be worth many millions of US dollars.
As drones become more technologically advanced and accessible, their applications across several industries continue to expand. The General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper and Lockheed Martin Indago 3 are two of the finest examples of how UAVs are changing our future. The MQ-9 Reaper’s capacity for destruction is impressive, for better or for worse, and it is, therefore, an excellent tool for assisting in military operations.
Additionally, Indago 3’s features and specs make it a wise choice for emergency survey operations, such as search and rescue missions. It’s one impressive drone and its image quality and intelligence capabilities make it a worthwhile investment for its target market, civilian and military alike.
As the already-large drone industry continues evolving, we will no doubt continue to see more powerful and pricey drones on the market, with even more amazing features and designs that will further influence the way we work and live.
You might also be interested in our articles on:
- MQ-28, Boeing. Accessed online at https://www.boeing.com/defense/MQ-28/index.page on May 10, 2023.
- Drone Software Global Market Report 2023, Report Linker. Accessed online at https://www.reportlinker.com/p06443927/Drone-Software-Global-Market-Report.html?utm_source=GNW on May 10, 2023.
- TPE331 Turboprop Engine, Honeywell. Accessed online at https://aerospace.honeywell.com/us/en/products-and-services/product/hardware-and-systems/engines/tpe331-turboprop-engine on May 10, 2023.
- HELLFIRE FAMILY OF MISSILES, US Army. Accessed online at https://asc.army.mil/web/portfolio-item/hellfire-family-of-missiles/ on May 10, 2023.
- Indago 3, Lockheed Martin. Accessed online at https://www.lockheedmartin.com/en-us/products/indago-vtol-uav.html on May 10, 2023.
- MQ-9 Reaper, US Air Force. Accessed online at https://www.af.mil/About-Us/Fact-Sheets/Display/Article/104470/mq-9-reaper/ on May 10, 2023.