ULTRA Drone: Affordable Long-Range Surveillance Solution Developed by USAF and Dzyne Technologies

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Unlike traditional, pilot-dependent aircraft, military drones offer a game-changing advantage: the ability to conduct reconnaissance and engage targets remotely, significantly reducing risk to human life.

This technological marvel comes with a hefty price tag, however. Commercially available quadcopters, currently deployed for reconnaissance and strikes in Ukraine, demonstrate surprising effectiveness at a reasonable cost, averaging around $2,000.

However, these low-cost options are ill-suited for long-range missions that defy geographical limitations. As the U.S. Air Force aptly puts it, these drones cannot “conquer the tyranny of distance.”

The price tag for long-range drones skyrockets depending on the complexity and capabilities of the system. For instance, the highly sophisticated RQ-4 Global Hawk carries a staggering price tag of $131 million.

Patrolling vast regions like the Pacific Ocean stretches the U.S. military thin, demanding both extensive resources and significant financial commitment. A revolutionary solution emerges in the form of the Unmanned Long-endurance Tactical Reconnaissance Aircraft (ULTRA).


Developed collaboratively by the Air Force Research Laboratory and Dzyne Technologies, ULTRA represents a paradigm shift in aerial surveillance. Perhaps most intriguing is ULTRA’s backstory.

This high-tech military platform began its life not roaring down a runway, but soaring gracefully as a commercially available sport glider.

This ingenious use of a pre-existing platform enabled engineers to craft a military-grade unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) using readily obtainable, commercially off-the-shelf components.

This strategy slashed development costs, making ULTRA a highly economical solution. Details surrounding the conversion process remain classified, but we can glean some insights from ULTRA’s sensor suite.

The inclusion of various affordable electro-optical, infrared, and radiofrequency sensors underscores ULTRA’s focus on cost-effectiveness, making it a fiscally responsible choice for long-term surveillance missions.

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