A subtrope of It's Raining Men, this is a favored tactic of the Space Marine. You need to get your troops to the battlefield. You also need to inflict damage to the enemy. Why not do both at the same time?
A Drop Pod is usually launched from a ship—usually in space—like a bullet after being loaded with troops, preferably in Powered Armor. Sometimes it has its own thrusters, allowing it to adjust its course in flight. When it hits, it usually performs a Ground-Shattering Landing, softening up the enemy enough to allow the troops to disembark safely.
Note that while a Drop Pod is nearly always used to damage the enemy, it doesn't always. The Starship Troopers version typically disintegrated, creating chaff to protect the trooper from anti-air targeting systems, by the time it reached the ground.
Compare Drop Ship, which carries multiple soldiers and can fly back up to the orbiting ship afterward. If launched against another ship instead, you're looking at a Boarding Pod. A pod launched away from battle is an Escape Pod. If you're expecting everyone to die, you might be considering a Colony Drop instead.
- The Wrong Reflection features Eleya, a MACO unit, and her ship's assault squad using borrowed Cardassian drop pods to assault a Terran Empire installation alongside the Klingon-Cardassian Alliance. Eleya and most of the troops make it down okay, but several pods are shot down, the MACO commander breaks his leg, they lose their demolitions gear, and one of the Cardassian officers crashes and dies.
Cardassian: Were smaller targets for their ack-ack than if we tried to land the ship or go in with assault shuttles. More targets means more of us get through.
Senior Chief Athezra Darrod: And its safe?
Dal Kanril:* Whats the matter, you scared? Living isnt safe. If I wanted safe, Idve taken a shore post at HQ.
- Used by the Condesce's forces during the attack on Excelsis-Five in the Golden Age series. Unfortunately for the soldiers within, their falls were repeatedly interrupted by the various shields surrounding the planet, leading to a far less dignified landing.
- Though it is not designed to inflict damage, Mr. Incredible is launched from Mirage's plane in one of these.
- Later, the Incredibles improvise one using an RV and a rocket.
- In Batman: Assault on Arkham, the Suicide Squad are dropped from a plane to Gotham City in pods that break apart when their parachutes are deployed.
- Like many Space Marine tropes, the Trope Maker here is Starship Troopers. Little has changed since Robert A. Heinlein invented the trope. It is worth noting that in the book, the pods were launched by being fired out of a tube like torpedos, in the opposite direction the ship was orbiting, to help them slow down enough for reentry.
- The War of the Worlds By H.G. Wells has the Martians using drop pods that contain the materials necessary to build their tripods.
- In the New Jedi Order novel Rebel Dream, special guest stars Wraith Squadron unveil their latest devices: one-man covert drop pods (really little more than shells) that are designed to mimic spaceborne debris falling to a planet. They proceed to use them to insert an infiltration team onto recently-captured Coruscant despite the massive enemy fleet presence.
- Used for both Space Marine and Real Robot deployments in The History of the Galaxy series, usually from Marine Assault Modules (basically, Drop Ships with tons of guns for clearing the area and battering down heavy fortifications prior to the land assault), when the MM itself can't land. The pods are little more than shipping crates with landing thrusters attached.
- Old Man's War combines this with It's Raining Men: Troopers dive from a spaceship using what is essentially a backpack full of nanobots (the visual similarity to a backpack parachute is Lampshaded) which first form a heatshield for re-entry, and then reconfigure into either a parachute or a parasail for final landing. The series presents it as a signature move of the Ghost Brigades, although a handful of regular Colonial Defense Forces soldiers have also done it.
- Artemis Fowl inverts this by having fairies that live near the Earth's core climb into metal pods and ride magma flares up to the surface.
- The HALO Intruder Pods used in Genocidal Organ by Project ITOH are made of artificial flesh that shapes in the form needed to cushion the impact or glide in the direction needed. They also have automatic weapons built into the 'legs' to clear the landing zone. Once the soldiers are deployed the Pods self-destruct by cutting off the enzymes needed to sustain the flesh, causing it to decay. A scene of them in action can be seen in the anime adaptation.
- Warhammer 40,000
- The Imperium's Space Marines use this as their primary tactic, and can even drop Dreadnoughts (twelve-foot-tall battle sarcophagi). Many other races have similar abilities. The tactic of unexpectedly inserting your troops behind enemy lines is known as "deep striking," whether it is done with Drop Pods, teleporters, or (in the Tyranids' case) wombs fired from space.
- The Space Marines themselves do not rely on the Ground-Shattering Landing to clear the way. Instead they launch two waves of pods, the first wave contains pods equipped with automated guns to clear the landing area for the second wave (which contains the Marines).
- Da Orks, being who they are, kick this one up a couple notches in the form of Roks. They take an asteroid, add engines, guns, and armor to it, fill it with Orks, and ram it into a planet. The Rok either causes a huge ruckus on impact and unleashes a horde of greenskins, or simply explodes and kills everything in the vicinity. Orks don't care which.
- The Tyranids have drop pods similar to the Space Marines in the form of the Tyrannocytes. Basically a gigantic, semi-sentient monstrous womb that already contains a fully developed brood of ravenous insects the size of dogs, or a single monstrous angry bug-dinosaur is launched towards the planet. And even after the creatures inside tear out of it, the thing then inflates with gas and moves about the battlefield like a roaming turret. Then there are Sporecysts, which are the same creatures except it carries a clutch of spore mine eggs. These things hit the planet with even greater force, completely embedding itself into the crust of the planet and continually chokes the air with it's miasma as it's spore mines spawn and clear the area.
- Even the Imperial Guard gets in on this, having Tetrarch Class Heavy Landers, meant to carry whole squads from orbit to the ground. Unlike Space Marine Drop Pods, though, these have a tendency to break down in-flight. The Guardsmen are told that they have nothing to worry about if the pod's engines fail.
- Champions supplement Gadgets. One of the title items was the "Jump Shell", said to be used by the U.S. Marine Corps to insert troops into the battlefield from orbit. Less advanced interim models would be dropped from supersonic transport planes.
- Classic Traveller Adventure 1 The Kinunir. Some of the Marine troops on board the title ship are trained to use jump capsules to descend from orbit and land on a planetary surface.
- BattleTech has Mech-sized drop pods, as well as power armor sized ones. They are usually dropped directly onto a possible landing zone to secure it, so that the DropShips can arrive to bring in the real army.
- The series is probably best known for the SOEIV (Single Occupant Exoatmospheric Insertion Vehicle), or HEV (Human Entry Vehicle), each designed to deliver a single soldier at the battlefield. These are launched in large numbers; the idea is that if one gets shot down, you lose one troop rather than the dozens that would be aboard a dropship. The troops who use this are the Orbital Drop Shock Troopers (ODST), with their most famous division known as "Helljumpers", and are the second best the human military has to offer, after the Spartans. In Halo 2, the In Amber Clad deploys the Chief and a squad of Helljumpers onto Halo Installation 05 this way, prompting this remark from Cortana:
- The opening cutscene of Halo 3: ODST gives the player a first-person view of being in an SOEIV as it's being dropped from orbit onto Earth's surface.
- The Covenant also have their own drop pods; apart from the single-occupant one used by Elites, there are also pods which can hold multiple soldiers, including instantly reusable versions which fly back up into orbit after dislodging their personnel.
- The Flood also use drop pods, which can release either spores or combat forms.
- The Mandalorians from Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic use Basilisk war droids to drop themselves onto planet surface from space. The Exile gets to repeat the feat on Onderon in the sequel.
- Star Wars: The Old Republic: A ship's Escape Pods are used this way, for the Eternity Vault Operation (Raid).
- The Command & Conquer: Tiberian Series features this in two iterations of the Support Power variety. The Tiberian Sun iteration crash drops a handful of veteran low-tier GDI infantrymen on the battlefield. The Tiberium Wars variant, on the other hand, lands a commander a few squads of veteran GDI Zone Troopers which are powerful enough to turn a pitched battle into a devastating curb-stomp.
- On the other hand, the Tiberian Sun pods have a function that clears the landing area...with gunfire. Helpful if you're dropping your boys into a hot zone and need to take out a cluster of high-level enemies. The Tiberium Wars pods land gently, slowly, and are generally sitting ducks until the Zone Troopers get out.
- In Star Wars Battlefront Elite Squadron, one may utilize the escape pods on capital ships as a quick way of getting to the planet's surface to attack.
- In Mega Man Legends 2, a drop pod has to be built in order for MegaMan to reach the surface of Forbidden Island due to the violent blizzard.
- There were drop pods in Battlefield 2142 which could be launched from air transports, Titans, APCs and the player would spawn from one if you selected a spawn beacon for your spawn point. Before the most recent patches, they could be used to destroy vehicles, and a glitch allowed you to fly around the map.
- In the campaign of Starcraft II the Terrans use drop pods, the mercenary compound brings merc units to the field in seconds using them and a tech upgrade allows the barracks to do the same. In addition the Zerg have "Sacs" that fill the same function in certain missions.
- The Crimson Lance arrive in these in Borderlands.
- In the Quake II and Quake IV universe, the drop pods are almost identical as how they are in Starship Troopers. In II, the player starts when he misses his drop zone and ends up and the far side of enemy territory. In Quake IV, the player uses a drop pod to make a pin-point attack on a Strogg command centre. Coincidentally, both landings are crash landings due to malfunctions in the pods' systems after they're clipped by another podnote .
- PlanetSide has the HART drop pod. The HART shuttle flies above the planet, and ejects the soldiers out of the bottom in large metal pods with small thrusters on them. Once the pod lands, it unfolds and releases the soldier. Planetside 2 drops the HART, but allows players to use the drop pods by using the Instant Action utility, through squad spawn beacons, or spawning on a squad leader. The PS2 drop pods are player-controlled, and have some maneuvering thrusters - most players use them to crush aircraft or land on the heads of infantry
- Used in the FEAR series to drop down armour onto the battle field.
- In Awesomenauts, this is how your character enters the battle at the start of a game, or when respawning.
- Cortex Command has drop crates which are essentially the same thing. Said crates only have 2 exits and can end up in situations where both are blocked, resulting it the crate destroying itself so things inside it can escape.
- In the first Dawn of War and its expansions, any Space Marine unit could be redeployed via Drop Pod, though it required a clear landing area. In Dawn Of War II, this is how your squads enter the map, and they can summon another one that instantly replenishes your troops (and this time, can be brought down on enemies' heads).
- Dawn of War III uses Drop Pods as one of the Space Marine faction's mechanics in a similar fashion to the first game: instead of building units from your structures as usual, you unlock one Drop Pod bay per tech tier, to a total of three, and can build units into open pods, holding them in reserve to be dropped into the field at a moment of your choosing.
- Sid Meiers Alpha Centauri featured Drop Pods/Gravity Pods as a potential tech add-on for land units, allowing one which hasn't acted yet that turn to air drop itself to another position within a certain range. Great for jumping across bodies of water, rough terrain, or just cutting off an enemy from behind when they thought they had you penned in.
- Titanfall uses this as the main means of transporting Titans onto the battlefield. Both sides also use more traditional drop pods to deploy grunts, with players actually taking a ride in a drop pod at the beginning of the Battle of Demeter during the IMC campaign.
- In Star Trek Online's Delta Rising expansion the Vaadwaur often use a variant with a built-in transporter that acts as a Mook Maker mechanically. First seen in "Revelations", where offscreen the Vaadwaur used them to do a Dungeon Bypass of the Turei planetary defense grid and sabotage it from below. More are deployed when the player character starts reversing the damage.
- Machines Wired For War has a giant drop pod as the start of your base.
- Virons in Ground Control 2: Operation Exodus can drop a few pods with their basic infantry.
- In Gears of War 2 the COG use two-man Grindlifts to deploy teams down into the Hollow, the enormous series of cavers and mines that serve as the home of the Locust and contain pools of Imulsion, the living energy source of all civilizations on the planet. The Grindlifts and the Assault Derricks that deploy then seem to be militarized versions of previous mining vehicles. Additionally, the Grindlifts require ground soft enough to allow the drill to punch through while on-board laser proceeds to soften the earth bellow.
- The titular player-characters in Helldivers are deployed in this manner, along with most of their gear and weapons.
- Earth Defense Force 5: The aliens have a new trick up their sleeve in this version. They have "drop pylons" that teleport in enemies like they did from the original drop ships in previous titles. The player can even see the pylons coming into lodge into the ground like giant spears riding in on balls of fire presumably from orbit.
- The Freelancer Saga of Red vs. Blue used these a few times. It was usually used to provide weaponry and gear to the Freelancers, but at one point was used to drop in Agent Maine.
- During the Halloween invasion of Superhero School Whateley Academy in the Whateley Universe, ARC provided support by sending a couple dozen fighters in power armor using drop pods from a space station overhead.
- Exo Squad featured two variants: A smaller one for the Jump Troopers, and bigger reentry pods for the E-Frames.
- Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles had the troopers first embark onto Drop Ships, and then they would be dropped from there in pods, presumably to allow the mothership to stay clear of Bug defensive fire. One episode has Rico get cast adrift in one of these due to a glancing blow in mid-drop. He is eventually saved by Carmen, but not before a Clip Show can ensue as Rico's life takes nearly 22 minutes to flash before his eyes.
- The mundane version doesn't have a Ground-Shattering Landing, but is effective; during World War II military gliders were used to drop troops, jeeps, light artillery and even light tanks, achieving a superior concentration of forces with better support assets than a parachute drop.
- And of course, given their renowned penchant for unorthodox weaponry experimentation, Those Wacky Nazis tested special personnel pods that would be carried over the Ju-87 dive-bomber's wings,◊ which would be released in a steep dive, descending from a parachute, allowing for even more precise troop deployment then would be possible with a glider, with 2 men to a pod, one pod to a wing. This is probably the closest that real life has ever gotten to this trope.
- These were, in fact, used to deploy agents and spies plus equipment in enemy territory.
- MOOSE was a 1960s concept for a real-life orbit to ground emergency drop pod which consisted of a heat shield, polyurethane foam and a plastic bag (to shape the foam). It was partially tested but never fully developed before the program was ended.
- The Soviet Soyuz return vehicle relies on solid rockets to augment its parachutes, allowing it to land in dry land - unlike American spaceships, which rely on oceanic splashdowns - resulting in a slightly fiery landing.
- However, in 1980s the Soviets developed (but never flew) the 14F70 Zarya, a much larger landing capsule, with up to 8 seats if the lower cargo deck was occupied. And instead of parachutes, it used 24 landing rockets. More interestingly, it was designed to fit into the bay of the Buran shuttle - and it didn't rely on Earth's atmosphere.
- And now, Elon Musk is on the case: having landed a Falcon 9R stage as God and Heinlein intended, he's now trying to get a crew pod to do the same.
- A related example to this, even if unmanned and of course designed for scientific purposes, are probes as Huygens, carried by Cassini, that landed on Saturn's moon Titan back in 2005 or the Philae module transported by Rosetta to the comet 67P/ChuryumovGerasimenko in 2014. An offensive version (from the POV of the comet Tempel 1 at least) was the impactor carried by the Deep Impact spacecraft, that hit it in 2005.