A definitive list of sci-fi drones (in progress)

In chats with friends and followers of the blog about sci-fi Drone Week, folks seem interested in coming up with a definitive list of sci-fi drones in movies and TV shows. While we might get there eventually by reviewing the movies and TV shows in which they appear, let’s beat that to the punch by creating the list FROM OUR MINDS.

Criteria:

  • In a sci-fi movie or television show
  • Is not simply a representation of a real-world drone
  • Is mobile (in the air, on the ground, or in space)
  • Appears (or defined as) technolgoical, not biological
  • Does not have a sentient controller/pilot aboard
  • Does not possess strong/general artificial intelligence
  • Either automous or remotely-controlled

Here’s what I’ve collected so far. Add more in the comments if you think of them.

Aerial (UAVs)

  • Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)
    • The lightsaber training orb
    • The mouse-bot that Chewbacca scares
  • Flash Gordon (1980) the bot in Ming’s chamber
  • Viper Probe Droid seen on Hoth in Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
  • Terminator diegesis (1984–)
    • Aerostats
    • Moto-Terminators (Salvation)
    • Aerostats (Salvation)
    • Hydrobots (Salvation)
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987)
  • They Live (1988) but only when you wore the glasses
  • Back to the Future II (1989) had USA Today drones (unclear if they’re AI, but benefit of the doubt?)
  • Babylon 5’s (1994) camera drones
  • Stargate diegesis (1997–)
    • (early versions of the) Replicators
    • Kinos
    • World-testing UAVs
    • S4E2 The Other Side was all about drone warfare
  • Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999) had “holocameras” following the podraces
  • Farscape (1999) has adorable little DRDs
  • Dark Angel (2000) had Police Hover Drones that the titular character got to surf.
  • The Incredibles (2004) Syndrome controls a few drones to do his bidding
  • Stealth (2005) (prior to the lightning strike that gives it strong general intelligence
  • Sleep Dealer (2008)
  • Wall•E (2008) SO many, though the level of their AI might disclude some
  • Skyline (2010) (has both alien drones and real world human drones)
  • The topography “pups” of Prometheus (2012)
  • Robocop (2013) (has both aerial and ground)
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013–) (Seriously, this show has a thing for them)
  • Star Trek: Insurrection’s (1998) transporter/transponder drones
  • Battleship (2012) battle bots
  • Hunger Games (2012) delivery droids
  • Elysium (2013)
  • Drone (2013)
  • Oblivion’s numbered, Tet-tech drones (2014)
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier’s city-sized drones (2014)
  • Chappie (2015) (aerial-capable, but mostly ground)

Ground

  • The floor-sweeping robots from The Fifth Element (1995)
  • The Robot from the Lost in Space movie (1998), which Will could remotely control
  • The Spyders of Minority Report (2002)
  • The remotely-controlled robots in Surrogates (2009)
  • Microbots from Big Hero 6 (2014) (a swarm of drones)

Thanks to the following suggestors for the initial list: Kelley Strang, John Danuil, Devin Hartnett, Derek Eclavea, Lane Bourn, Wally Pfingsten & kedamono.

Almost but not quite

Some suggestions seem like they would be perfect candidates, but for some reason skim the definition.

  • Bit from Tron (1982) may have been limited to yes or no answers, but was an AI
  • Machine gun drones from the deleted scenes of Aliens (1986) can only swivel, not move
  • Dreadnought from Star Trek: Voyager (1995)(VOY, Dreadnought) it’s AI
  • Jarvis from the cinematic Iron Man/Avengers diegesis, also strong AI

Keep them coming in the comments. What did we forget?

10 thoughts on “A definitive list of sci-fi drones (in progress)

  1. A couple initial thoughts:
    HammerDrones (Ironman II)
    The Bubbleship from Oblivion had a drone mode

      • The Peacekeeper drones at the beginning of the second Avengers movie might fit: I don’t think they’re directly controlled by Jarvis
      • Would the spaceship in 2001: A Space Odyssey count? Technically HAL is in charge, but I got the feeling that he ran the ship like a giant drone instead of ‘being’ the ship… but that might be trying to stretch the definition a bit.
      • The Batmobile from the Dark Knight trilogy has a drone mode
      • The prototype Hunters from X-Men Days of Futures Past have an autonomous drone mode
      • Would the jeeps from the original Jurrasic Park count? They’re on rails, but otherwise operate independently of human operation
      • Ghost in the Shell has several independent artificial systems, but they butt up pretty hard against the no-general-AI requirement
      • Serenity has automated drone beacons to act as decoys
      • Hunt for Red October has a decoy torpedo that is pretty much a drone
      • Moon has the harvesters that are largely automated

      I’ll keep looking too.

        • Interstellar’s Indian Patrol Drone (very close shape to a modern Patriot, but with unlimited range, and semi-intelligent navigation)
        • Megamind’s minion bots
        • Would Real Steel’s combat bots count?
        • Do self-driving cars count? if so, we could add a lot of things to this list, but that sounds a bit too inclusive (and possibly part of a different post)
        • Stargate (the movie) has the original robot drone that explores the ‘gate for the first time

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