"Now you got the three of us!"
— Wilhelm, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!
An alternative to magically summoning beings for your use, you can instead carry them on your person to deploy and recall them as needed. This is common in science fiction with vehicles or robots, though there are some magical examples or even natural examples such as some real life mutualism.
Methods of storage are:
- Carried on or inside the deployer's body or armor.
- Carried in a capsule or similar container.
The roles these drones can play for the deployer are:
- Attack Drone: Assisting the deployer in attacking enemies.
- Surveillance Drone: Searches the area and immediately alerting the deployer to the presence of any intruder or enemy. They should be taken out stealthily if possible.
- Auto-Doc / Orbiting Particle Shield: Constantly healing and/or shielding the deployer and their allies, requiring that the drones be taken out first before attacking the deployer.
Drones are often Transforming Mecha or Size Shifters to help conserve space and store more of them. They may also be Equippable Allies.
See also Detachment Combat, Combining Mecha, Enemy Summoner, Mook Maker, Bombardier Mook, The Minion Master, and The Turretmaster.
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Anime and Manga
- In Area 88, an aircraft carrier is modified to move on land and even under sand and launches computer-controlled F/A-18 Hornets.
- In Digimon Universe: App Monsters, Charismon is able to deploy swarms of eyeball-themed drones from the eyes on his armor. He first uses them to to spy on the Appli-Drivers, then uses them in battle, where they fire lasers and create Deflector Shields.
- Mobile Fighter G Gundam: The Gundam Rose deploys Rose Bits to support it in battle.
- Mobile Suit Gundam 00 has various mobile suits that use Fangs and Bits, including the Throne Zwei, Cherudim, Arche, and Reborns Gundams. The Gadelaza is a cruiser-sized Mobile Armor whose main offensive technique is launching 154 Attack Drones and shooting the enemy from every conceivable direction at once. It has a couple of weapons mounted on the main unit, but it rarely ever needs to use them.
- Mobile Suit Gundam SEED has the Providence Gundam, which carries DRAGOONs, which are basically bits by another name.
- Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny has the Chaos Gundam that uses 2 attack drones and the Strike Freedom Gundam which deploys the DRAGOONs once again (ironic because the first Freedom Gundam defeated the Providence). And then there's the Legend which is based on the Providence.
- In the UC Gundam continuity, the Qubeley series of Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam and Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ carry funnels; the Elmeth of Mobile Suit Gundam had bits; and the Sazabi and Nu Gundam of Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack had Fin Funnels and bits, respectively.
- Macross Delta: Both Delta Squadron's VF-31 Siegfried and the Aerial Knight's Sv-262 Draken III function as this. The former carries a large number of small drones that act as shield generators, while the latter carries two larger UCAVs that they use in a more conventional manner.
- Rebuild World: When Akira is on an Escort Mission of a Big Badass Rig convoy through the wasteland, a group of Flying Saucer Mechanical Monster attack drones attack from above. Designed for airspace control by the Old World Neglectful Precursors, the smaller drones are launched out of a huge saucer mother ship which has Chameleon Camouflage but still gives off a huge shadow. It has a huge Wave-Motion Gun it shoots out the bottom for artillery support.
- Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Mecha Phantom Beasts are an archetype of machine monsters whose abilities chiefly revolve around generating and manipulating tokens on the player's side of the field for their own benefit. Fittingly, the archetype's monsters are designed and based on various kinds of aircraft.
- Marvel Universe:
- Spider-Man: The minor enemy Armada wears a suit of armor carrying many little flying robots he can send out to do his bidding. The interesting thing is that he cares about their welfare, and freaks out when they inevitably get destroyed by heroes who assume they are Just a Machine. Note that it's never clear whether the little robots actually are self-aware, or if Armada is just crazy.
- X-Men has the Master Mold, a giant Sentinel production plant shaped like a Sentinel. Master Mold also has the ability to summon and control Sentinels from anywhere, which makes it a bad thing that it goes kill-crazy against mankind AND mutantkind.
- Mister Terrific: The titular character uses miniature all-purpose satellites called T-Spheres in battle.
- Plan 7 of 9 from Outer Space. Proton has a flashback to when he fought a Yellow Peril invasion where a giant flying machine released a swarm of robotic fighters after being destroyed.
An aerial dreadnaught was torn apart, sky-samurai spilling from the corpulent hull. But even as a cheer rose from the American aviators, hundreds of parasite fighters were detaching from their cradles. No cockpit's gleam marred their metal carapace; no human hand gripped those controls. They were robot air-craft, piloted by gyroscopic brains that knew no fear, fatigue or mercy. Wave upon wave they came — a soulless swarm of death!
- In the Puella Magi Madoka Magica fanfic, To the Stars, Patrica can make drones... using magic.
Film — Animated
- The Incredibles: Syndrome's search drone, which appears to be part of his outfit until he deploys it.
Film — Live-Action
- In Captain America: Civil War, Falcon's upgraded flight pack has a drone which he can deploy for reconnaissance or other purposes.
- Minority Report: The Spyder drones which provide surveillance and have a taser like effect while fitting neatly into a police utility belt.
- Predators: One of the Predators has a detachable hawk-like device he uses to track prey.
- Star Trek Beyond: Krall has a massive swarm of drone ships left behind by some Neglectful Precursors as his main weapon. They can pick apart the Enterprise with ease but rely on some form of broadcast to coordinate, and can be easily beaten when disrupted.
- Star Wars: The Trade Federation's capital ships, seen in The Phantom Menace, are transports and control hubs for legions of droid soldiers, vehicles and starfighters.
- Transformers Film Series:
- Skorponok is constantly on Blackout's back until he is needed, upon which the former detaches in Transformers (2007).
- Whenever Soundwave, the Decepticon comms officer, needs something done on Earth, he deploys Ravage and Laserbeak to take care of things. He continues to use them even after he gains a vehicle mode in Transformers: Dark of the Moon rather than his satellite mode in Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen.
- Ghostweight by Yoon Ha Lee has the jerengjen, which take the form of origami shapes that unfold into the required weaponry.
- Honor Harrington: From Honor Among Enemies on, some ships carry a squadron of Light Attack Craft — their Space Fighter equivalent, with a very small crew compared to other ships. Bigger carriers can launch up to 200 LACs.
- The Night's Dawn Trilogy: Adamist ships supplement their firepower with advanced war drones called "combat wasps". Wasps carry X-ray lasers, fusion torch engines, electronic warfare packages, and often their own sub-drones.
- Dungeons & Dragons has had many types of these over the years.
- Chess pieces from Fextree's and Marbol's Chess Games and the Chessmen of Ultham-Urre can turn into monsters that fight for their owner.
- Crystal Warriors can turn into characters that fight for their owner.
- Figurines of Wondrous Power, depending on the type, are small figurines, easily stored in a pocket, which on the speaking of a command word can turn into creatures such as elephants, tracking dogs or giant goats that perform tasks, including fighting.
- The Bag of Tricks. Its owner can reach in and pull out a small fuzzy object. When tossed to the ground, it becomes a randomly chosen animal — anything from a rat to a tiger — that will fight for the user.
- Hc Svnt Dracones: Carriers have six drone bays, each capable of carrying two (three for IRPF ships) drones that are a match for fighters in many settings. Most other Large and Capital ships also have drone bays, but they have weapons arrays as well.
- Shadowrun: Riggers mostly command drones using their Brain/Computer Interface, and the smaller ones they can carry on their person.
- Star Fleet Battles:
- Captain's Log #40: The Space Manta monster is infested with parasites that it can launch at targets. The parasites pursue the targets as if they were seeking weapons and attack the targets when they hit them.
- All of the major interstellar nations have ships that carry fighters or PF ships, and almost all major ships carry armed shuttlecraft.
- Starfire: The major star fleets had carriers that carried armed fighters.
- Traveller: The Imperial fleet has several carrier types which carry various amounts of fighters, including the Skimkish class light carrier and the Wind class strike carrier (both eighty fighters) and the Antiama class fleet carrier (300 fighters). Other major ships can also carry fighters, such as the Tigress class dreadnaught (300 fighters).
- Warhammer 40,000:
- Most Tau vehicles have drones that can pop free of their weapon mounts.
- Harridans, immense flying Tyranid creatures, serve as an organic version of this for the smaller Gargoyles. Gargoyles don't have great endurance, so large numbers of them will hitch rides aboard Harridans as these fly towards warzones. Once they're close to the enemy, the Harridan sheds its load like a living bomber plane.
- Hero Factory: Stormer XL carries Scout Drones on himself.
- LEGO Exo-Force: The Deep Jungle sets have deployable mini robots.
- Many incarnations of Soundwave have him carrying cassettes that transform into robots, such as Laserbeak.
- Blaster, Soundwave's Autobot counterpart.
- Metroplex, Trypticon, and the other Cityformers tend have normal-sized Cybertronians who serve as internal defenders. Their autonomy and intelligence varies from one continuity to another.
- Optimus Prime himself can transform his trailer into a small command center, and dispatch a little semi-autonomous car named Roller. In most adaptations, he doesn't make as much use of these remote extensions of himself as one might expect.
- Omega Supreme similarly transforms into three separate components, which all recombine to form his robot body.
- The 2015 Robots In Disguise toyline actually has a class of figures called Deployers, which launch their Mini-Con partners. The show has several more Transformers like this who either didn't get Deployer toys or didn't get toys at all.
- Ace Combat:
- Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War features the Ark Bird and Hrimfaxi, the latter of which is a giant submarine. Both launch UAV drones to defend themselves.
- Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown has the Arsenal Bird, a massive autonomous aerial battleship that carries not only drones, but also tactical lasers and launchers that can deploy both standard anti-aircraft missiles and Helios airburst warheads. On top of all of this, it has automated repair systems and receives its power from the "Lighthouse" that it guards via microwave energy, meaning that it, and its drones, can stay aloft indefinitely with only the occasional supply shuttle to top off its ammunition and repair supplies.
- Ashes of the Singularity: The Substrate faction is nuts about drones. They have a ship type whose only purpose in life is to house a swarm of drones; the ship itself has no weaponry, but the drones have a nasty sting and there's quite a few of them. Then they have the drone dreadnaught, which in addition to having three swarms of the same drones also has independent weaponry, making it a serious challenger on the battlefield. And to top it all off they have a special power that calls down on any place in the battlefield a massive swarm of the nasty buggers, for the annihilation of everything in range.
- In Awesomenauts, Voltar the Omniscient has this as one of his special abilities. Depending on your upgrade loadout, it may be his only method of attack.
- Kid Ultra's aptly named "Support Drone" has him deploy this type of drone that follows a target ally, increasing their maximum health and granting an amount of health per second for a given time.
- Marquis can send out owl drones to act as scouts and explosives.
- Bionic Commando: One enemy in the sixth area attacks with remote-controlled helicopter drones. The remake has Fly Droid Operators.
- Borderlands: Roland the Soldier and Axton the Commando utilize sentry turrets as a form of offense or defense depending on the skill tree paths taken. Wilhelm the Enforcer of the Pre-Sequel deploys two flying drones, one of which attacks while the other one heals him. In the third game, Zane can send out a flying drone to attack enemies similar to Wilhelm.
- Bubble Tanks: In the second game, the BFT Carrier can carry up to six invulnerable drones that can be deployed to attack anything near your mouse cursor.
- Command & Conquer: Generals: Every American vehicle can deploy a single drone that either shoots infantry and repairs the vehicle, or increases sight range and detects invisible units.
- Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 and Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3: The Allies' Aircraft Carrier deploys attack drones. Unlike the other heavy ships, the drones are able to go after moving targets with some degree of accuracy, but can be shot down with enough Anti-Air (although the carrier will automatically replace downed drones in about the same amount of time it takes for the ones that made it back to reload).
- Dawn of War: The Tau's Drone Harbinger unit automatically produces small drones that then attack-move towards the targeted destination. However, it must be watched carefully to make sure it doesn't die or rapidly drain your energy resources.
- In DC Universe Online, Brainiac and his minions uses this heavily. A Gadget-using character can deploy turrets that fly around and shoot at your enemies for you.
- In EVE Online, most ships cruiser-class and larger can deploy drones, which can fight or mine on that ship's behalf. The Gallente in particular specialize in drone combat.
- In FTL: Faster Than Light, drones are one of the primary tactics of the Engi, and non-Engi ships can also use them if they acquire a drone system.
- Ghost in the Shell: First Assault Online: Togusa's ability has him activating an Attack Drone that seeks out the nearest target and explodes. It's an instant kill if you get hit by it, but at level 2, the drone also deploys an EMP effect to the surrounding area.
- Golden Sun: One illustration shows that Djinn are kept this way, as each shrinks down to a point of light on the user's body.
- In Ground Control, the Order's Orion drone carrier drops eight-legged drones that track enemy terradynes (vehicles on wheels or treads) and explode on contact. They cannot track infantry. The Orion itself is a hoverdyne, like all other Order vehicles.
- Gunforce 2 has a tank unit in the first level that deploys drones, which rains bullets on nearby targets. Once it's depleted of ammo, the drone then falls and explodes, dealing additional damage via explosion.
- Half-Life: Some Civil Protection officers in Half-Life 2, as well as the Combine Ordinals in Half-Life: Alyx, carry up to two manhacks/viscerators which they'll deploy in combat.
- Halo 2: The Heretic Leader uses holographic attack drones.
- Each Promethean Knight carries a Watcher Sentinels on its back that it'll deploy at the start of combat.
- Hellgate: London features a character class dedicated to this concept.
- The Kushan Puppeteer-class Drone Frigate manufactures, fields and maintains 24 stationary turrets which are locked in orbit of the parent frigate. The Drone Frigate is unarmed so it must rely on the Drones to do the fighting.
- Homeworld Cataclysm: The Somtaaw Hive-class Advanced Drone Frigate builds six essential Attack Drones which, while autonomous and versatile, take up more space than their predecessors. When things get too dicey to bear, the Hive Frigate's two self-defense guns will add just a bit more firepower at the risk of exposing the frigate to the fight.
- Homeworld 2 scraps drone warfare in skirmish and multiplayer matches. However, the Progenitor Keepers in the singleplayer campaign could construct Keeper Drones which were just as formidable as the Keepers themselves. The closest thing in the player's hands is the Pride of Hiigara with a construction facility for producing up to ten reverse-engineered Progenitor Mover corvettes.
- Mass Effect: Andromeda: Assemblers are Remnant bots which manufacture smaller Remnant bots to attack. The smaller bots have a tendency to explode (which might be a consequence of their rapid construction, not an intended feature).
- Mega Man (Classic):
- Pipis are robotic birds that carry and drop eggs that, if they hit the ground, break into eight or so mini-birds, which then fly at Mega Man. Hornet Man can also use robot bees, the Bee Chaser, in Mega Man 9. When he copies the weapon, Mega Man can use this to grab things that are out of his reach.
- The fanmade Mega Man: Rock N Roll has Beetle Woman's weapon, the Beetle Drone.
- Overwatch: Junkrat's Ultimate RIP Tire is a remote-controlled explosive tire carried on his back that the player controls to roll to and detonate at opponents.
- In Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, the Yux class of enemies can deploy an unlimited number of Mini-Yux to shield them, each of them deploying a shield that protects the Yux from any sort of harm. More advanced models have self-replicating Mini-Yux, requiring Mario and his allies take them out faster than the Mini-Yux can multiply. Grodus, who spearheaded their development, uses the similar Grodus X system, though rather than making an impenetrable barrier, they simply raise Grodus's defense and can only create that force field when four of them are out.
- In The Persistence, the Swarm Grenade explodes into a dozen flying robots that shoot lasers at your enemies for half a minute or so. It takes most of that duration to kill anything and lot less time to distract something enough for you to kill it.
- Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare: the Cactus and The Engineer deploy Garlic and Zombot drones respectively, which function identically* . Cactus controls hers via a flower on her head that functions like an antenna, while the Engineer uses a handheld joystick. Unlike other examples, there is no in-universe explanation for where these are stored, aside from Hammerspace. In Garden Warfare 2, this role is given to Captain Deadbeard instead of the Engineer. Since Deadbeard's "drone" is his cybernetically-enhanced Pirate Parrot, he obviously keeps it on his shoulder.
- Pokémon: Trainers typically carry their Pokémon in their Pokéballs, releasing them to battle as needed.
- Resident Evil 6: The Nigh-Invulnerable Ustanak carries bat-like creatures called Oko in its back that it sends out to hunt for its target. When one spots someone it shrieks and flickers red, and Ustanak comes running.
- Solatorobo: Many ships produce drones, and are defeated by throwing the drones back with great force. The Tiamat mech produces up to four that are basically flying buzzsaws.
- In Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Miles can fire a projector from his web-shooter that creates a yellow Hard Light hologram in the vague shape of a man. This Holo-Drone will punch the enemy that is closest for as long as it remains (which is only a minute or even shorter if enemies do enough damage to the drone).
- The Protoss Carrier and Reaver, the latter unique to StarCraft. The first fires Interceptors that return for repairs after a while, the other stores what are essentially seeking ground torpedoes. The sequel keeps only the Carrier, improving it by allowing automatic production of Interceptors.
- Story-wise the Terran battlecruiser is a Battlestar that carries Wraith fighters in addition to its own armament. However this is not true in gameplay aside from one story mission, where the Hyperion has a regenerating fleet of fighters.
- StarCraft II has the Terran Raven, a replacement for the science vessel that can launch a defensive drone. The protoss get the carrier again, while the zerg acquire a unit that manufactures and deploys Infested Terrans in a similar manner to the Reaver.
- Star Trek Online features drones that the player can deploy in space or on the ground.
- In space, players can choose from an array of carriers, ranging from the Klingon Vo'Quv to the Voth Bastion flight-deck cruiser. The game breaks them into full carriers (two hangar bays, fewer bridge officer slots) and hybrids (more capable on their own, one hangar bay). Also the Odyssey-class and Bortasqu'-class feature unique consoles that allow them to separate a section of their geometry that acts independently and is also available as a ship on its own (respectively the Aquarius-class destroyer and HoH'SuS-class bird of prey).
- Engineer characters can deploy a variety of drones on the ground using class-specific kit modules. These can heal friendly characters, shoot enemies, or make a kamikaze attack.
- The final boss of Sunrider: Liberation Day, the Nightmare Ascendant, can deploy swarms of flier drones to assist it in battle. In cutscenes these drones can tear apart whole fleets of ships by themselves. In gameplay they accompany the Nightmare Ascendant as enemy units.
- Sunrider 4: The Captain's Return has the Dominator, whose only weapon is a swarm of drones. These drones fly to a targeted point and provide either area-of-effect damage or area-of-effect healing, depending on which loadout you picked before the mission started.
- Super Robot Wars, in addition to the Gundam examples, has a number of "Banpresto Original" mechs that deploy drones: the Ashsaber, Dis Astragant, Cybuster, and others. Many also appear in the Super Robot Wars: Original Generation subseries.
- Sword of the Stars: A Murder of Crows has drone carrier ships in all three size categories. They're a particular specialty of the Morrigi, whose Command ships and other classes carry drones as well.
- In Team Fortress 2, the Engineer can pick up and redeploy any buildings he constructs, though this does have the disadvantage of keeping him from defending himself until he drops his load, as well as slowing him down.
- Troubleshooter: Abandoned Children: This is Kylie's role. Her standard weapon is her two personal drones Mono and Vivi, who can act as Attack Drones or Autodocs as needed. Kylie can also use company resources to build and deploy custom drones when needed.
- Batman: The Telltale Series: Batman has one that's rather useful for scouting things out at high altitudes. After Penguin steals some Wayne Tech, he gets one of his own.
- Warframe: Corpus Tech and Fusion Moas can deploy Shield Ospreys and Attack Drone respectively.
- In Watch_Dogs 2, the protagonist has access to two types of remote-controlled drones (A small jumper drone and a UAV) to scout, infiltrate and hack. If used properly, it is often possible that Marcus does not even need to set foot into enemy territory.
- The series has had M1 carriers since the first game in the series, lightly armed capital ships that use fighters as their primary weapon. X3: Terran Conflict adds other carriers:
- Most M7 frigates carry a small number of fighters. The Panther takes this to an extreme, with 32 berths (most frigates carry six, full-size carriers have 50-60).
- Xtended Terran Conflict Game Mod introduces drone-carrier M7C frigates, which are capable of manufacturing advanced drones on-the-fly which are deployed and retrieved them from exterior docking clamps. They reappeared as official ships in X3: Albion Prelude, albeit without the manufacturing capability, instead becoming pocket-sized carriers.
- The M6 Hyperion corvette carries a pair of fighters on external clamps.
- TM military transports remove most of a freighter's cargo bay in exchange for four fighter berths, letting them carry their own backup.
- NPC freighters frequently carry a small number of fighter drones to fend off attackers. The Sector Trader and Bonus Pack trading scripts will make player-owned freighters buy them for the same purpose.
- MARS, a lightweight Game Mod for X3: Terran Conflict and Albion Prelude, allows capital ships to launch upgraded and pretty intelligent 'Goblin' fighter drones that can run a variety of tasks. They will intercept incoming heavy missiles, launch distraction actions on enemy large craft and swarm smaller ones, deploy satellites to spot targets for missile frigates, collect salvage, and bring abandoned ships near the player for recovery.
- X: Rebirth's player ship carries various types of remotely operated and unmanned drones in lieu of space fighters. Capital ships now have URV Launchers instead of docking ports, which launch attack drones that are significantly easier to maintain and cheaper to buy than the fighters of previous games which were a massive logistical nightmare.
- The series has had M1 carriers since the first game in the series, lightly armed capital ships that use fighters as their primary weapon. X3: Terran Conflict adds other carriers:
- Schlock Mercenary: In the first couple books (2001-2002) Doythaban's high-tech Powered Armor had a pair of mini-drones that popped out of the shoulders and could fire plasma blasts or disable weapons at a distance. By Book 13 (circa 2012) all of Tagon's Toughs have hardsuits with Shoulder Cannons that can detach as paul-drones. In Books 19 and 20 (2018-2020) they've upgraded to fragsuits that are essentially made up of drones, to the point where the (former) commodore tells the grunts they should be acting like officers commanding small companies.
- Aircraft carriers, ships designed chiefly to carry around large number of airplanes as a sort of mobile home base.
- And their Boring Yet Practical counterparts, the troop ships, as deployers of landing craft. Which makes this trope Older Than Steam.
- The many Real Life variants of the Airborne Aircraft Carrier, to varying degrees of success.
- The Switchblade man-portable drone has been purchased by the U.S. army. It's launched from a small tube, and can fly autonomously or piloted. Soldiers can see a video feed from the drone, and can pick a target seen in the feed for the drone to go kamikaze against.
- Several species of Acacia tree have a symbiotic relationship with ants, which they attract with sap-filled pods and hollows ideal for build a nest in. The ants swarm on any animal attempting to eat the tree, and strip the leaves from nearby plants competing for light, water, and nutrients.