Carrier-Based Unmanned Weapons Platform
With the reverse-engineering of salvaged reaper tech representing the most significant technological breakthrough since the initial discovery of Prothean ruins by the various Council nations, the dynamics of military tactics and equipment design have changed drastically, rendering entire approaches to strategies currently in use obsolete, while opening new fields of research and development that were once thought theoretically unfeasible.
One of the areas in which this technological revolution is most prevalent is that of drone design. While the Oculi drones in use by the Reaper armada were not strictly speaking unmanned constructs, the weapons platform satisfied roles that were considered remarkably similar to that of manned fighter-interceptors and unmanned fire-support drones currently in use, such as the Alliance's R-12 Albatross. As such, the Reaper platforms recovered have been studied extensively for areas of both immediate and developmental improvement of contemporary drone models.
An example of one of the finer resulting designs that have come into use in the aftermath of the Reaper War is the UWP-07 'Channel', invented by the R&D subsidiaries of The High Republic of Orozvhad. The Channel is a novel concept, designed to be housed and deployed from a 'carrier' vehicle utilizing portable storage units that can be attached to most vehicle hardpoints. These drone hangars, informally referred to as folds, can store up to six channels per unit, and contain their own kinetic barrier installations to prevent damage to the drones while not in use.
When deployed from their folds, Channels are controlled via a wireless link to the 'master' vehicle, utilizing flexible yet simple VI programming to adapt to changing battlefield conditions when not under direct command of the controlling vehicle. Channels also manoeuver in a manner differing from common drones. While older models relied on small mass-effect field generators and RCS thrusters to allow for passive manoeuvring, the Channel uses more active manoeuvring thrusters that allow for rapid movement both in and out of gravity. As a result, Channels are both extremely hard to hit, and very easy to lose track of in the heat of battle without the assistance of a VI.
Equipped with an accelerated ferrofluid beam, the Channel drone is designed to act as an escort to the master vehicle, covering its flanks and other degrees of movement that the vehicle can neither see nor respond to. The Thanix-based ferrofluid, while extremely penetrative, lacks the stopping power of its larger counterparts due to the comparatively thin radius of the beam. As such, Channels primarily target the sensitive components of enemy vehicles, the nature of its weaponry allowing it to ignore any armor between the beam and its mark, no matter the layering or density of the shielding. Power plants, Element-Zero cores and sensor arrays are all considered primary targets for the Channel. And while one Channel may not be able to completely disable or destroy an enemy vehicle entirely on its own, an entire wing of drones can riddle anything under a Corvette classification in seconds, so long as their fire is accurate.
While the Channel is considered an excellent force-multiplier, its operators face a steep learning curve, especially in the cases of those that are already experienced in operating drones. As a result of its powerful manoeuvring thrusters, ferrofluid beam, and small size, the Channel operates on limited battery power, and can only sustain itself for a maximum of ten minutes before being forced to withdraw. Though the folds contain recharging stations and spare heat sinks with which to resupply the Channels, it takes a skilled and experienced operator to be able to manage the time in which the Channels are active, as well as coordinate retrieval and resupply of the drones. Due to this drawback, newer versions of the Channel come packaged with improved and more assertive VI programming that automates much of the procedure.
The Channel can be fitted to ground vehicles, atmospheric and exo-atmospheric support craft, and even capital ships to act as point-defense drones. The Systems Alliance, in its ongoing love affair with drone support craft, is currently designing its own version of the Channel.