Simply put, a drone is an aircraft without a pilot on board, equipped with powerful video cameras that give its earth-bound operators the power to conduct aerial surveillance for long periods of time and/or to guide the aircraft to specific locations.
A weaponized drone uses its powers of surveillance and endurance to enable its operators to stalk and kill people without having to meet them face-to-face.
The Pentagon has purchased over 10,000 drones. http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-461 The vast majority of these are relatively small, unarmed and used for battlefield surveillance.
Knowdrones is focused on the operations of the following, larger U.S. weaponized attack drones (numbers in red are the approximate number of each type believed to be in use at the beginning of 2017):
The workhorse of U.S. drone killing is the MQ-9 Reaper, equipped to launch four Hellfire missiles and two 500 pound bombs (pictured on this website’s homepage). The MQ-1 Predator, which carries two Hellfire missiles, is no longer in production but has not been retired because of expanding drone attack missions. Both of these drones are manufactured by General Atomics, a privately held corporation with headquarters near San Diego, California, which also makes the MQ-1C Grey Eagle, a more powerful version of the Predator.
MQ-1 Predator - 270
MQ-9 Reaper - 300 ( both Predator and Reaper are believed to be being flown by the U.S. Air Force and the Central Intelligence Agency)
MQ-1C Grey Eagle - 140 (operated by the U.S.Army) http://www.fi-aeroweb.com/Defense/MQ-1-Predator-MQ-9-Reaper.html
Most killer drones are operated by the U.S. Air force from bases inside the U.S. The U.S. Army operates the Grey Eagle primarily within divisional units deployed overseas. There is virtually no public information about Central Intelligence Agency drone operations.
The weaponized drones are shipped to or near the nations where they will attack, are assembled and launched, and then they are remotely controlled using satellite links.
There are 20 killer drone control centers in the United States, indicated on the map below, and there are also U.S. drone control centers in the Middle East, Africa and Afghanistan. Major satellite relay centers in Germany, Italy and Australia enable intelligence gathering, targeting and control in large swaths of the Middle East, northern and central Africa and the Pacific.
At any given time during a 24-hour period as many as 240 U.S. killer drones will have been flown, assisted in targeting by Global Hawk intelligence-gathering drones. https://www.airforcetimes.com/articles/air-force-moves-to-reduce-stress-on-drone-pilots
Drone video surveillance and targeting technology are said by President Obama to ensure precision in killing, but the video technology does not provide highly detailed images that often do not enable absolute identification of those targeted. In addition the power of the blast of the Hellfire missiles used in drone attacks often leads to indiscriminate killing and wounding.
More on these problems appears in this website section entitled “Those Being Killed”.