‘Drone Monkey’ is the (mostly) affectionate name given to the unique individuals able to communicate and coordinate with multiple drone equipment wirelessly from a specialised control ship. These individuals will have undergone cybernetic implantation surgery, including the advanced Cocklear equipment they feature.
Although no studies into the precise reasoning has been done, the ability to control said drones seems to be stronger in people with atypical, eccentric personalities and almost always absent in anyone with military training or organisation. This has led to military forces having to subcontract these often strange individuals and the ships they travel on.
Above: A typical Drone Monkey, featuring data gauntlet and Cochlear implant
Above: A MD-7 repairing a Union strike fighter in the field
The MD-7 (affectionately referred to as the ‘Mendy’) was one of the first drones produced by Syn-Tec. It features precise manoeuvring jets and a multi-functional appendage suited for remote repair and maintenance of space-borne assets.
The drone has a single arm referred to as a Smart-Limb. It is capable of heavy lifting, fine motor skills and can ‘plug in’ to access systems not capable of wireless communication. This adaptability makes the Mendy – or, in fact, several operating at once – a useful asset in several arenas. It is able to repair satellites in orbit, stranded spaceships and collect cargo. It’s true that humans in space suits and EVA packs are capable of doing some of these tasks, but the MD-7 can do so in conditions that might otherwise kill a human being , e.g. high levels of radiation. Whereas a human operator would be using equipment via bulky gloves or a control panel, the drone can perform tasks with surgical precision.
The military favour the MD-7 as it can repair a variety of damage to ships ranging from fightercraft all the way up to battleship; without the need for a dry dock. It can remove and replace armour plate, rearm ships exhausted of warheads and even pick up ejected pilots and return them to a rescue ship. The USEF are known to keep a Drone Monkey on retainer for just this purpose; to support the Task Force on extended forays into Wun’Tux territory.
The Deutz-AG manufactured Scanner-Jammer is a multipurpose drone marketed to the civilian and military markets. Primarily the drone is a remotely operated scanning device, capable of passive and active scanning and real time updates to a sentient operator, usually on-board a nearby ship. Civilians can use the drone for, amongst other things, mineral detection, solar storm prediction and planetary surveys. However, the S/J can be used as a forward spotter for artillery, increasing the accuracy and effectiveness of space-based weaponry by more detailed guidance and telemetry.
Above: A Tigerhound firing long-range; augmented by an S/J Drone
The technology crammed into the drone can be reversed and flipped around in order to disrupt the scans and guidance systems of nearby vessels, too. Although skilled sensor operators can construct workarounds, the S/J can easily disrupt and scramble the data guiding snubfighters, shuttles and even some capital ship scale missiles.
The S/J cannot function whilst moving, however, and moves at half the speed of most starfighters. This makes it extremely vulnerable and in need of constant protection under fire. The example pictured at the top of this article is on the periphery of an asteroid belt, using environmental protection to keep it as far from harm’s way as possible.
The D-4 Nightstrike is the first successful combat drone produced by SynTec. A large proportion of Drone Monkeys find the idea of using their technology for destruction abhorrent, which makes combat operatives rare and therefore very valuable. The advantages of drones are clear enough; one person can operate more than one craft and drones are quick, agile and waste no space on pilots or life support.
The Nightstrike gets it’s name from it’s faint to non-existant sensor profile. The combination of it’s small size as well as it’s method and material of construction means it is often difficult for sensor operators to ‘see’ unless they are specifically looking for it. ‘Nightstrike’ refers to it’s ability to use this to it’s advantage and sneak up on unsuspecting enemies. It’s twin pulse cannons aren’t the heaviest weapon but are accurate and effective at short range.
Above: D-4s flying in formation with their control ship, ISS Ningyo.
Aside from circumspect scouting and ambush missions, the D-4 is more than nimble enough to dogfight with opposing starfighters. It has a low capacity/high recharge shield, meaning it can survive a hit or two but no more. The most combat grizzled Drone Monkeys can coordinate advanced combat manoveres that would take a team of human pilots months to learn.
Drones are more fragile than starfighters, more tricky to repair and more expensive to replace. The control ship must be relatively close to the drones to transmit and this transmission can – with some skill – be jammed. These overheads and potential weaknesses mean hiring a combat drone control ship is significantly more expensive than hiring human counterparts, but it is often worth the outlay.