Dropship (science fiction)
A dropship or dropcraft is a fictional aerial transport vehicle featured frequently in science fiction, in particular military science fiction and space opera genres as well as video games such as Starcraft. It is used to deliver troops (or "space marines") and equipment onto a planetary surface. Notable examples of dropships include the "Retrieval Boats" from Robert A. Heinlein's novel Starship Troopers and the UD4L Cheyenne from the 1986 film Aliens.
Dropships typically possess a short range and are designed only to work in conjunction with a larger orbiting mothership or vessel that is ill suited to land on the surface. Dropships are usually capable of both atmospheric and space flight (or, in some examples, underwater travel), differing from craft only capable of flight in one of those mediums. The roles of dropships are generally military in nature, including landing troops or equipment on a planet. Dropships featured tend to be portrayed as heavily armed and armoured, providing protection for troops from surface fire, similar to helicopters currently employed by military forces.
Differing depictions of dropships either tend toward strictly functional or to more artistic or organic in operation. Often dropships are designed using current technology or principles in mind, such as Scramjet engines, VTOL and Lifting Bodies. The UD4L Cheyenne from the 1986 film Aliens was designed with both the AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter and the F-4 Phantom fighter jet as a basis. Commonly space-flight principles including delta-v, orbit insertion and aerobraking are used to describe the flight-characteristics of dropships.
Dropships are shown to serve a similar role to modern day utility/transports, typically helicopters or tiltrotor aircraft, vehicles such as the UH-60 Blackhawk or the MV-22 Osprey, also capable of deploying personnel and equipment whilst maintaining fire support. While achieving the same goal delivering troops and material to landing zones, military gliders are only single use and lack arms and armor. Currently no real-world examples of dropships exist, although research into their application has been and continues to be conducted by military forces around the world (see Militarisation of space).