Drone weapons, known more colloquially as drones, are projectile weapons that serve as the primary weapon system of the Ancients. Drones are capable of penetrating the shields of Goauld Hatak class ships as well as the Ancient upgraded shields of Anubis' capital ship. A single drone can destroy most fighters and cause severe damage to smaller capital ships, while hundreds or thousands can obliterate dozens of vessels with little effort.
A drone is a vaguely squid-shaped weapon about three feet long. It has a rounded yellow head with small spikes that jut out to the rear of the weapon. Six tails extend from the rear of the weapon, which taper into a point while in flight. A drone is an extremely powerful guided weapon, comparable to a highly sophisticated missile. Using an internal sensor for guidance a drone can penetrate or even bypass all but the most powerful shields and burrow through thick armor with ease while avoiding attempts to shoot them down and avoiding allied targets. (SG1: "Lost City, Part 2")
When active, a drone emits an energy field capable of burning through nearly all forms of conventional matter, as well as allowing it to punch through energy shielding with ease. This not only renders a drone capable of causing severe damage in a single strike, but allows it to make multiple attack runs on a single target before running out of energy. Drones are precision weapons, designed to cause massive damage to small targets without destroying anything around them. This makes them ideal as anti-fighter or anti-ship weapons, but less effective as ground-suppression weapons, despite their low collateral damage.
Drones are usually deployed using a Control chair, which can command thousands of them at once. Drones are capable of self-guidance, but the chair also allows for direct control. When attacking in a large group, drones use swarming tactics to maximize damage, surrounding and assaulting a target from all directions. Any drones still active after the attack has been completed will return to storage for later use. (SG1: "Lost City, Part 2", SGA: "Rising", "No Man's Land", "Enemy at the Gate")
Drones are among the most powerful weapons in existence. They can pass through Goa'uld shields with ease and punch through the organic armor of Wraith Hive ships without being destroyed. In an alternate reality, it was stated that an Ori warship was driven off by drone weapons, though it's not made clear if it simply retreated or was destroyed. Two or three drones are sufficient to destroy a Ha'tak vessel when the ships are hit in key areas, which drones automatically detect and aim for, and a few dozen drones tore apart a Hive ship in less than a minute. (SG1: "Lost City, Part 2", "It's Good to Be King", "The Road Not Taken", SGA: "No Man's Land", "Be All My Sins Remember'd")
Although Drone weapons can bypass Gouald shields, some races possess the technology to defend against them. Drones will drain the Asgard shielding gifted to the Tau'ri but won't bypass them. The shielding of the Ancients themselves will similarly resist the weapons, though the drones will still cause strain. The Travelers presumably have strong enough shields to resist drones to a limited degree, given their participation in the attack on Asuras, though it was their less advanced ships that took the most damage. The Wraith Super Hive was able to withstand several continuous salvos of drones fired by Atlantis without being destroyed. (SG1: "New Order, Part 2", SGA: "Be All My Sins Remember'd", "The Lost Tribe")
A drone's targeting computer retains friend and foe information provided by a Control chair. Even if communication with a chair is terminated, a drone, assuming it retains power, is still capable of carrying out its last orders. If a drone is given no targeting information when launched, it will simply seek out the nearest valid target and pursue it until successful or instructed otherwise. Drones have also proven capable of seeking, tracking, and engaging targets of their own accord, dodging weapons fire directed towards them, and dodging any obstacles in their path. It also appears that drones are automatically set to detonate on impact whenever smaller objects, such as a fighters or individuals, are designated as targets. (SG1: "Lost City, Part 2", SGA: "Rising", "The Defiant One", "No Man's Land")
It appears that drone weapons are powered through an advanced form of wireless energy transfer, as they have shut down and fallen from the sky in mid-flight when the Zero Point Module powering the City-ship they were launched from were depleted, implying that an outside power source is required to keep the drones in flight. However, the ZPM was already near depletion in the first place, and it could be that the drones possessed so little power when they were launched that they depleted their internal supply far quicker than they would have had they been launched using a stronger power source. This could also be explained by the fact that the drones were under direct and continuous control by control chair instead of having their targeting information directly uploaded on launch, so they shut down because they were no longer being given any flight information. (SGA: "The Tower")
Ancient vessels and structures possess varying amounts of drones: City-ships and Ancient outposts boast tens of thousands of drones, likely hundreds of thousands at full capacity, that can swarm and destroy multiple fleets of ships, Aurora-class battleships somewhere in the upper hundreds to lower thousands (more than enough to destroy several ships in one salvo), and Puddle Jumpers contain at least eight. (SG1: "Lost City, Part 2", "It's Good to Be King", SGA: "The Siege, Part 2", "No Man's Land", "Adrift")
Drone weapons also possess their own neural interface technology on the outer shell, allowing someone with the Ancient Technology Activation gene to set them as timebombs by touching them and using their mind. It is unknown what other functions can be altered or activated in this way. (SGA: "Entanglement")
The explosive power of a drone has never been accurately measured before. However, based on Dr Radek Zelenka's models, its explosive capability is directly linked to the power source of the control interface. When powered using a naquadah generator, drones didn't "pack as much of a punch" as they do with a ZPM powered chair interface or a Puddle Jumper's power core. (SGA: "Angelus")
With precision aiming, drones can destroy hive ships with as few as seven drones. During the Second Battle over the Outer Rim Planet, John Sheppard, while picking his shots due to a limited drone supply, fired eight drones at a hive ship in two waves. One missed but the other seven struck and destroyed the hive ship. This shows that massive amounts of drones aren't required to take out a target if they are targeted properly. (SGA: "Inheritors")
Drone weapons were used extensively during the Ancients' war with the Wraith; however they became increasingly rare after the Ancients left the Pegasus Galaxy for Earth. Ten thousand years later, only Ancient outposts and vessels possess them, and there is currently no way to replenish their stockpiles as no society apart from the secluded and now-destroyed Asurans—who had no desire to share their knowledge—knew how to construct them. In the Milky Way, the only encountered drone weapons are located at the Antarctic outpost, though it can be assumed that other stockpiles may exist elsewhere in the Milky Way. (SG1: "Lost City, Part 2", SGA: "The Siege, Part 2", "The Tower", "No Man's Land", "Be All My Sins Remember'd")
Drone weapons were also used in defense of Earth during the Battle of Antarctica, which circumvented the shields and penetrated the hulls of the Anubis' Ha'taks directly and easily destroying the invading fleet. After the battle, an outpost was created to study the technology in the newly discovered outpost, and the scientists stationed there studied at least one of the thousands of drones left over from the battle. When Dr. Carson Beckett was using the Ancient Control chair, he accidentally activated the drone, which chased after the incoming helicopter containing Major John Sheppard and Brigadier General Jack O'Neill. Luckily, Beckett was able to shut down the drone before it destroyed the helicopter. (SG1: "Lost City, Part 2", SGA: "Rising", "The Siege, Part 2", "The Tower", "No Man's Land", "Vegas")
When a hive ship reached Earth in an alternate reality, it was destroyed by a swarm of drones from the Antarctic outpost. Later, in the main reality, the super-hive destroyed the Control Chair so the weapons platform couldn't be used. Atlantis was flown into battle with the super-hive, but its drone weapons were unable to destroy the ship. Luckily, Sheppard destroyed the ship with a nuclear weapon detonated on the inside before Atlantis could be destroyed. (SGA: "Vegas", "Enemy at the Gate")
During the Second Battle over the Outer Rim Planet, Atlantis' drone weapons were used in battle. Due to most of them having been used up, Sheppard picked his shots, mainly aiming at damaging attacking hive ships and keeping them off of Atlantis. With eight well aimed drones, one of which missed, Sheppard was able to destroy a hive ship during the battle. (SGA: "Inheritors")
- Joseph Mallozzi stated on his blog that the Ancients possessed drone technology in the Milky Way, while "Mini-drones" were developed in the Pegasus Galaxy.
- GateWorld's article on