The Drone is an adult form of the species Xenomorph XX121, often said to be the most basic adult caste. It is a loyal servant for the Queen, but essentially represents the lowliest class of Xenomorph, comparable to a worker ant. Drones construct Xenomorph Hives, using a resin-like secretion that they produce, and collect hosts for impregnation. Drones are easily identified by their smooth head carapaces, among the smoothest of all Xenomorphs, and they are capable of spitting cysts of acidic blood at their enemies. They average around 8 feet tall when standing on hind legs, and about 14–15 feet long, tail included.
The Drone first appears in Alien, and as such was the first Xenomorph designed and seen. Drones were also supposed to appear in Aliens, but during pre-production the creature's smooth carapace was removed out of fear the fragile dome would crack during filming, a modification that gave rise to the Warrior caste.
One particular Drone from Acheron was responsible for infiltrating the USCSS Nostromo and killing virtually all of its crew. The creature was ultimately ejected into space and incinerated in the engines of the shuttle Narcissus by Ellen Ripley.
Drones are spawned from human hosts, and as such share their bipedal stature, although they have been known to move on all fours at times. After reaching its adult height, the Drone typically dwarfs its host, standing at least 7 feet tall. They are dark in color, typically black but often with some grey coloration on their smooth heads. They are often said to fulfil a worker role within the Hive, building and tending to the nest, although they are also voracious predators possessing incredible strength, easily capable of restraining or subduing a physically adept human.
Their most distinguishing features are their smooth heads, dorsal tubes and barb-tipped tails, which can be used as a formidable flailing weapon, powerful enough to hurl an average human through the air with little effort. Their ability to spit acid some distance gives them a ranged advantage over many other Xenomorph castes.
When attacking, Drones primarily employ ambush tactics, and are almost never seen working in coordination with other Xenomorphs, even when inside the Hive, preferring instead to operate alone. They are shown to be intelligent and patient, employing stealth in their assaults, often seeking to blend in with their environment and waiting motionless for their prey to come within range before striking. In the novelization of Alien, Ash theorizes that the Drone is at least as smart as a dog, and probably more so than a chimpanzee. It seems possible that Drones may not require the leadership of a Queen to function at an intelligent level, unlike Warriors who seem to be primarily driven by the Queen's commands and basic instinctual impulses. Drones often operate as scouts, as one of their alternate names implies, and are capable of making independent decisions.
It has been argued that Xenomorph Drones are somewhat smarter than Warriors, with the most prominent evidence given being the way in which they stalk and attack enemies. Whereas Warriors will hurl themselves at targets with little concern for self-preservation, and commonly employ suicidal swarm attacks, Drones seem to be more stealthy and use their environment to their advantage, preferring ambush tactics to take down prey. However, it is not clear if this differing intelligence is inherent or merely due to situational factors as the "suicidal tactics" employed by the Warriors of Acheron was used to test the perimeter of the Marines.
Additionally, it seems that intelligence and abilities can vary between Drones, and that in some cases, individual Drones appear to possess greater intelligence than their brethren and may even act as a "leader" amongst a group of Drones. Notable examples include Grid and the Lead Alien aboard the USM Auriga.
It is often speculated that Drones will eventually evolve into Warriors, although it is not known at which stage this may occur, or if this process is influenced by the Drone's environment or ageing process. In the expanded universe, Drones are shown as being the evolutionary basis for several other forms as well, specifically Praetorians and even Queens. The conditions that may initiate these changes are not well understood, with situational, environmental and hierarchical factors being quoted in different sources.
Originally, the Drone was given a complete reproductive life cycle that did not require a Queen to lay more Eggs. Rather, the Drone would cocoon a victim in its Hive, and the victim would subsequently be changed by unknown means into a new Egg containing a Facehugger. Footage of this process was shot for Alien, although it was later removed from the final print of the film. The sequence was, however, included in the novelization of the film, and the movie footage was subsequently reintegrated in the 2003 Director's Cut.
The two methods of reproduction have never been reconciled in the films. However, the novelization of Alien3 suggests that both methods are typical of the species, and that the alternate version seen in the Director's Cut of Alien is simply an alternate means for a Xenomorph to reproduce when a Queen is not present, or possibly even the means by which a Royal Facehugger is created.
Drone and Warrior
It has long been theorized that smooth-headed Drones and ridge-headed Warriors are in fact the same caste of Xenomorph, and that the ridged head structure of the Warrior is simply a sign of ageing or maturity in a Drone. Drones and Warriors have never appeared in the same film throughout the Alien franchise; currently, Drones have only been depicted in Alien, Alien vs. Predator and Alien Resurrection, while Warriors appear in Aliens and Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (the other films of the franchise feature other Xenomorph variations, such as the Runner in Alien3 or the Cloned Xenomorphs in Alien Resurrection). However, several video games have portrayed the two castes working alongside one another. The ageing theory is backed up by the fact the Xenomorphs featured in Aliens have been alive for considerably longer than those seen in either Alien or Alien vs. Predator (however, it does not explain the presence of Warriors in Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, despite those creatures being only recently born).
In the cast and crew commentary for Aliens, James Cameron confirms the aging concept, stating that the Warrior Xenomorphs in his film are indeed intended to be adult Drones. The change in design was originally implemented because Cameron was concerned that the smooth head piece of the original film's design would crack or otherwise be damaged during the increased stunt work required of the Xenomorph suits in Aliens. As a result, he simply removed the smooth cover from the heads, exposing the ridges beneath. Furthermore the video game Aliens versus Predator 2 refers to the adult ridged head Xenomorphs as Drones.
- The Drone in the novelization of Alien had a slightly different design, including large eyes on the front of the head (similar to H. R. Giger's original painting). It also notably lacked an inner jaw, instead using its bare hands to kill its victims.
- A different type of Xenomorph identified as a "Drone" was originally going to appear in Aliens. These Drones were going to be much smaller than the Warriors seen in the film and white in color, with an excreting probe in place of the Warrior's jaws. They were to be a worker caste inside the Hive, tending to the Queen and moving her Eggs. They were ultimately cut from the movie before filming, although they appeared in the novelization by Alan Dean Foster. While their attributes have since been applied to the Drone from the movies, the original albino caste has yet to appear in any other media. However, in 2016, NECA released a figure of the proposed Xenomorph.
- Actual Drones were originally going to appear in Aliens but during pre-production the creature's smooth carapace was removed out of fear the fragile dome would crack during filming, a modification that gave rise to the Warrior caste.
- In the 2010 video game Aliens vs. Predator, the Drones make the same sounds as Chestbursters. This is most readily heard when playing as a Yautja and a trophy kill is performed on a Drone.
- The Lurkers in Aliens: Colonial Marines are often said to be Drones (due to their virtually identical appearance), but the official strategy guide makes it clear they are a separate caste.
- Drones are believed to vary in size, and are sometimes taller than 8 feet, as seen in Alien: Isolation.
- Lurker - a similar caste of Xenomorph.
- Palatine - a similar type of Xenomorph, but the size of a Queen.
- ↑ AVP: Evolution
- ↑ Aliens vs. Predator (2010), Rebellion, SEGA [Microsoft Windows].
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 James Cameron (writer and director). Aliens (1986), 20th Century Fox [DVD].
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 Dan O'Bannon, Ronald Shusett (writers), Ridley Scott (director). Alien (1979), 20th Century Fox [DVD].
- ↑ Vincent Ward (writer), David Fincher (director). Alien3 (1992), 20th Century Fox [DVD].
- ↑ Alan Dean Foster. Alien, p. 184 (1979), Warner Books.
- ↑ Paul W. S. Anderson (writer and director). Alien vs. Predator (2004), 20th Century Fox [DVD].
- ↑ A. C. Crispin. Alien Resurrection, p. 90 (1997), Warner Aspect.
- ↑ Dan O'Bannon, Ronald Shusett (writers), Ridley Scott (director). Alien Director's Cut (2003), 20th Century Fox [DVD].
- ↑ Alan Dean Foster. Alien, p. 210 (1979), Warner Books.
- ↑ Alan Dean Foster. Alien3, p. 162 (1992), Warner Books.
- ↑ Alan Dean Foster. Alien, p. 214 (1979), Warner Books.
- ↑ "Alien II" initial treatment by James Cameron
- ↑ Alan Dean Foster. Aliens, p. 304 (1986), Warner Books.