The Hurt Locker: Drones and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Just a few decades ago, planes without a pilot were science fiction. Now they are everywhere.  Known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)  or “drones,” these aircraft can be easily bought in a store or online for a couple hundred dollars (well, the commercial versions, not the actual war machines). Yet they’ve also changed how we fight wars nearly as much as the gun itself (and the bow before that). Lives are saved because a UAV can scout an area or find a target in a crowd from hundreds of feet overhead and near invisible. But more than that, some UAVs are armed with weapons that give a whole new way to look at a battle.

Inspired by a post Phil Reed put up over on Medium, today’s Hurt Locker post is all about drones/UAVs and how to use them in your campaign. This post includesstats for a modern TL8 UAV, as well as a divergent mana-powered drone suitable for any contemporary campaign featuring magic, and a few drones for higher TL campaigns. Actually piloting a drone or UAV uses an appropriate specialty of Piloting (usually Light Airplane).

Contemporary Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
UAVs are so much a part of modern warfare that fighting without them feels like living in the stone age at times to many soldiers.

RQ-4B Global Hawk (USA, 1998 – current)
The RQ-4 was first flew in February 1998 as a part of DARPA’s ACTD program (Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration) along with several other aircraft. After their successful flight several prototypes were operated in the Afghanistan War and they were eventually put into production in 2006. Powered by by a Rolls-Royce F137-RR-100 turbofan engine (7,600 lbf thrust), the plane can carry a 1 ton payload, and is mostly made from aluminum and other durable composite materials.
         Its long radar system is accurate to within 2 yards in a 3.8 sq mile area (treat as a Small Tactical Imaging Radar from GURPS High-Tech, p. 46). It requires a pilot to operate and a co-pilot to operate the sensors.

YT-77 Munin (Merlin-1 USA, 1996 – current)
The YT-77 Munin was originally designed and created by a former member of the 101st Spellborne in his garage. Having been an apprentice aircraft mechanic before he his magical ability was discovered (and got him pulled into the Spellborne) he wanted to create a better means of area reconnaissance within an area. The size of a small motorcycle, it uses a small Ford Motors-Manadynamics Harmonic Converter (300 lbf) which effectively gives it an unlimited range and can carry a small payload of up to 200 lbs.
         The YT-77 is equipped with ten “slaved” Lockheed Hugnin systems (see GURPS Technomancer, p. 94) that can be launched from the aircraft to inspect things that its radar (treat as a Small Tactical Imaging Radar from GURPS High-Tech, p. 46) locks onto. Its higher DR is thanks to a Fortify spell and operaters gain a +2 to their Vehicular Dodge scores thanks to a Deflect enchantment. It’s ability to hover is due to its Flight enchantment, which is powered by the Power enchantment.
         The Valkyrie variant carries a fully loaded 70mm M260 Hydra (GURPS High-Tech, p. 150) complete with various types of curse missiles or mana warhead payloads.

Piloting/TL (Light Airplane) (IQ-6, Piloting (Glider)-2, Piloting (Ultralight)-2, or other Piloting-2)

TL Vehicle Hnd/SR HT Move LWt. Load SM Occ DR Range Cost Loc. Stall
8 RQ-4 Global Hawk +2/3 11f 4/179 16.13    1 +5 2 14154 $222M Wi3Wr 55
8^ YT-77 Munin +3/3 10F 6/150 0.5 0.1 0 7 $13M Wi3Wr 0

Ultra-Tech Drones
With computers (and technology in general) becoming smaller and smaller, surveillance drones become easier to manufacture. Given this trend, I can only see smaller drones and other “unmanned” technology becoming more and more common. So I decided to see what the Hummingbird drone from Phil Reed’s post might look like in GURPS.

Nikola-9 “Hummingbird” Drone (TL10^)

125 points
See here for a full description of the Nikola-9’s capabilities and outward appearance. This package includes a Non-Volitional A.I. Assume that one drone can power a single C-cell with a hour’s worth of siphoning (remember, each increase in powercell size is approximately a factor of 10, so five drones could charge a D-cell in two hours) and that the Hummingbird’s effectiveness is reduced by 1 for every 10 yards of distance from the generator it’s attached too. So if a drone was 50 yards away it would take five hours to charge a C-cell instead of just one.

Attribute Modifiers: ST-7 [-70]; DX+4 [80]; IQ-4 [-60]; HT+2 [20].
Secondary Characteristic Modifiers: SM-5; HP+5 [10]; Per+6 [30]; Will+4 [20]; Air Move +4 [8]; Basic Move -3 [-15].
Advantages: Absolute Direction (Requires signal, -20%) [4]; Detect (Electric Fields; Reflexive, +40%) [14]; Doesn’t Breathe [20]; DR 2 (Cannot Wear Armor, -40%) [6]; Enhanced Move 1 (Air; Move 18/36) [20]; Flight (Winged, -25%) [30]; Machine [25]; Mindlink (up to 9 other drones) [10]; Non-Volitional A.I. meta-trait [-38]; Radio (Secure, +20%) [12]; Reduced Consumption 2 [4]; Sharp Beak [1]; Silence 2 [10]; Ultrahearing [5].
Perks: Accessories (Small computer; broadcast power transmitter; power-tap) [3].

Skills: Aerobatics (H) DX-2 [1]-12; Flight (A) HT+2 [8]-14; Urban Survival (A) Per+1 [4]-13; Stealth (A) DX+1 [4]-15.
Disadvantages: Electrical [-20]; Horizontal [-10]; Maintenance (one person, bi-weekly [-3]; Restricted Diet (Very Common, power cells; 3C/24 hr.) [-10].
Cost: $18,000, LC 2.
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