Interceptor Drones are most often carried into battle as pairs, one in each of the wing cupolas of a Sun Shark bomber. This benefits both the aircraft and the drones, as the former ensures the Sun Shark survives long enough to deliver its payload on target whilst the latter benefits from the Sun Shark’s speed in deployment.
In battle, Interceptor Drones will often either stay attached to the Sun Shark, where they act like turret-mounted weapons, or they can detach from the flyer and serve as an escort. When making a high-velocity deployment from a Sun Shark bomber, Interceptor Drones are programmed to position themselves to intervene between the bomber and any oncoming fighters.
With their sophisticated targeting systems and powerful guns, few enemy aircraft are capable of withstanding the firepower of Interceptor Drones. Some Interceptor Drones have racked up impressive kill totals, a source of bragging rights for a Sun Shark's Air Caste pilots, if not for the artificially intelligent Drones themselves.
Interceptor Drones also have the ability to boost their jets by activating their afterburners, which provides them with a rare burst of extreme speed during independent flight. This allows them to better position themselves to lock onto aerial targets and attempt to blast them out of the sky.
Interceptor Drones consist of an advanced processor unit, which individually has only a basic intelligence (approximately equal to that of a small animal such as a pterasquirrel), and moves about by way of a small anti-gravitic generator and a much modified version of a T'au Jetpack.
This allows the Interceptor Drone to hover over the ground and skim over most obstacles. As they hover over landscapes, rotating back and forth, their sensor vane constantly transmits vital information about their surroundings.
Interceptor Drones that are attached to a T'au squad can be controlled by a Drone Controller, whether it is in the form of a support system for a T'au Battlesuit, or a hard-wired piece of wargear for T'au infantry.
A Drone Controller is an electronic device that can be used by the T'au to further enhance their control over their robotic companions. A Drone Controller acts as a hub of digital communications between the drone's operator and any drones that are nearby the user.
It serves as an advanced interface between the operator and the artificial intelligence (AI) combat programs of the drones, and is often used to direct the drones' firepower far more efficiently and with a level of accuracy far greater than would otherwise be possible on the battlefield.
The Fire Caste combat doctrine, as laid down in the Code of Fire, instructs all warriors to fight closely together, with each member of a team doing his utmost to protect not just his comrades, but also nearby teams in his Hunter Cadre. Using overlapping fields of fire, even Drones are able to provide mutual support on the battlefield in the case of enemy assaults.
So deeply do the T'au believe in the Greater Good, that even their drones are programmed with self-preservation protocols. In the face of what the AI deems to be hopeless odds, a drone will attempt to escape rather than stand and fight.
While in certain extreme circumstances drones might be deployed on high-risk missions likely to lead to their destruction or purposefully moved to block enemy advances on units of Fire Warriors, the T'au do not consider drones to be disposable units and the drone artificial intelligence will analyse every possibility in order to ensure its own survival.
Ordo Xenos Departmento Analyticus Technical Specifications
- Codex: Tau Empire (4th Edition), pp. 25, 31, 35
- Codex: Tau Empire (6th Edition), pp. 32-33, 48, 55
- Imperial Armour Volume Three - The Taros Campaign, pg. 282
- Deathwatch: Mark of the Xenos (RPG), pg. 12