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Xenomorph Drones are fictional creatures in Alien franchises and supporting antagonists in the series. Later Drones are shown in the crossover AvP franchise as well. They are the most common Xenomorph species. Drones are the Xenomorph's first stage of maturity after progressing through the chestburster stage.
Appearance and Characteristics
Drones are spawned from various hosts (does not always have to be humans), and as such share their hosts' stature; but all species, no matter what hosts they have been originated from, are perfectly capable of moving on all four. After reaching its adult height, the Drone typically dwarfs its host, standing at least 7 to 8 feet tall. They are generally dark in color, typically black but often with some grey coloration on their smooth heads (however, there are some that have been known to sometimes appear with a slight hint of brown). The cloned Xenomorph Drones are known to have a more brownish-green skin color which is possible due to its assimilation with human DNA.
They are often said to fulfill a worker role within the Hive like ants or bees, building Nests using a resin-like secretion that they produce and tending to them. They are also responsible for collecting hosts and caring for the Queen's eggs. They are also voracious predators possessing vastly superior strength, easily capable of restraining or subduing an athlete-level physically fit human. Its blade-tipped tails can either stab (and pick up preys with it) or bludgeon preys to death and its lashing can also slash, decapitate or send victims flying. In Alien: Resurrection, the cloned Drones were known to have even more remarkable agility and sharper reflexes that enabled them to dodge oncoming gunfire at point blank ranges.
Drones are known to have hands with a various number of digits. The maximum amount of digits vary from 3-6 on each hand, despite their hosts having a maximum of 5 on each hand. The Drone on the Nostromo was shown to have a maximum of 6 fingers per hand. Later variations have shown to have less such as 3-4 digits per hand or some with 2 longer inward digits.
When its prey is cornered, a Drone will sometimes inexplicably 'savor' the experience, often waiting a few seconds before unpredictably lunge and killing/incapacitating its captive; almost as if it enjoys the fear its prey shows. However, it will not do this if the action would place itself at risk, instead going for a quick kill or abduction. For example, when the Drone on the Nostromo cornered Lambert it seemed to enjoy every moment of her fear. This is also seen when right before it head bites Parker, taking its time and possibly enjoying every moment of his fear (and pain). Such behavior would carry out in other drones in later sequels and other medias of the franchise, though they no longer savoring their prey's fear as long as Nostromo Drone ever did (likely due to improvement and other revisions of Xenomorph lore).
Xenomorph Runner, which introduced in Alien 3, was technically a drone, due to its smooth dome. But aside from preserving Ripley due to her harboring the larva Queen in her body Runner slaughters everyone else and is not interested in propagation, contrasting other human-based Drones.
Their most distinguishing features are their smooth heads in contrast to Xenomorph Warriors' ridged heads. Their ability to spit acid some distance gives them a ranged advantage over many other Xenomorph castes. It should not be forgotten that even the weakest caste of Xenomorph can effortlessly slaughter a group of strongest humans without difficulty.
Drone and Warrior
It has long been theorized that translucent, 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 aging 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 (the other films of the franchise feature other Xenomorph variations, such as the Runner in Alien 3 or the Cloned Xenomorphs in Alien Resurrection), while Warriors appear in Aliens and Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem. However, several video games have portrayed the two castes working alongside one another. The aging 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 matured 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.
In Alien vs. Predator: Extinction, Xenomorph Warriors are gestated via. use of human host whereas Xenomorph Drones with Oswocs instead.
When attacking prey/victims, Drones primarily employ stealth and 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 highly intelligent and patient, often seeking to blend in with their environment (which is often dark) 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 if not smarter, 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 their targets. 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. (but being loyal servants to the Xenomorph Queen they will not hesitate to die defending her) Still, should the main defense of Hives by Xenomorph Warriors be breached, Drones will fill their places as the main defense. It is not clear if this differing intelligence is inherent or merely due to situational factors. But in Alien: Covenant, Drones of Protomorphs (Xenomorph's ancestor species) are shown to be just as fearless as Warriors. It is unknown if these Drones are fearless due to being the prototype and had not yet evolved with time.
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.
In Alien: Resurrection, they are also shown that the cloned variation drone is much more cunning than that of the normal cousins, which is shown throughout the course of the movie. They have also been shown to be fast learners as well, such as when dowsed with liquid nitrogen spray by Dr. Jonathan Gediman which enraged the creature and almost broke out at the doctor, however stopped to avoid another hit of the spray. They are also shown to have learned how to use the same device which was shown when one clone hit the button when a security guard entered the compromised holding cell. The clones were also shown to utilize luring tactics which was shown when one killed mercenary Capt. Frank Elgyn who was picking up an abandoned Lacrima 99 Shockrifle by popping out from behind.
It is often speculated that Drones will eventually evolve into Warriors, although it is unknown at which stage and time this may occur, or if this process is influenced by the Drone's environment or aging 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.
Rarely, when there is a vacuum in leadership due to absence of Queen by her death, Drone Xenomorphs start fighting amongst themselves to see which one is the strongest. The winner molts into the Queen and becomes the new hive ruler.
Despite being born into a species with a hive mind functionality, Drones can be just as deadly on their own. It is unknown if they have their own form of individuality when on their own, but it is quite possible. It's usually when one individual drone establishes its nest and spawns more of its kind, that drone is usually in charge.
Alien vs. Predator: Extinction introduced an alternate version of acid spit ability called Cystic Acid Spittle, appearing as an upgrade for Drone case. The upgrade endows drones cyst-filled acidic froth that it spits on potential hosts, burning them and simultaneously creating tumors that use the host's body to generate nutrients beneficial to transbreed Chestburster development. Accordingly, adult transbreed Aliens from cystically infected hosts are tougher than usual. These "cystic" Aliens have a red streak running along the dorsal region of the head. A red circle beneath cystically infected hosts signifies their plight.
Hive Node Creation
Exclusive in Alien vs. Predator: Extinction, the Drones can generate Hive Nodes that acting as sort of living core of the webbings of their hive. Through the webbings, the Hive Nodes generate and distribute nutrients for injured Xenomorphs to regenerate from injuries sustained through the fight against enemies and formidable hosts alike.
Vacuum Space Survival
Drones were one of the first castes to demonstrate the Xenomorph's ability to survive the vacuum of space, however, it is uncertain as to whether or not there is a certain amount of time they have before having to re-enter a spacecraft. The drones on the Sevastopol were shown to have the ability to crawl on the outside of the station without any problem. Later this is revealed as Drones' acidic blood, when inside Drones' body function like batteries, enabling Drones to survive vacuum of space for unknown periods of time (presumably quite long).
Initial Reproduction Concept
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. This later mentioned in the novelization of Alien 3 which stated that Drones can create a new Egg out of remains of the slain victim, hinting such ability only used in an emergency situation such as stranded in Xenomorph-free areas.
- According to H.R. Giger, all Drones are genderless, but this is debatable.
- The Drone in the novelization of Alien had a slightly different design. 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.
- 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.