The Pentagon is pursuing plans to raise the use of drones by about 50 per cent over the next several years, through US army and civilian contractors who would put more of the unmanned aircraft in the air, AP reported.
The decision to add army and civilian-operated missions to the mix comes after the Air Force, which had been running about 65 combat air patrol missions a day asked for lowering the number to 60 due to stress faced by the force.
However, 60 patrols fell much short of meeting the demands of top military commanders faced with increasing security threats around the world.
According to senior US officials though drones had been used largely to target terrorists and collect intelligence over combat zones, those needs might shift in the coming years.
Top military leaders, including the incoming chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, had named Russia as the most serious security threat to the US.
Also China's rising military power and island-building programme in the South China Sea had escalated tensions and led to greater demand for US surveillance and intelligence across the Pacific.
According to a senior defense official, Pentagon leaders were taking those security challenges into account as they decide how armed and unarmed drones would be deployed across Europe and the Pacific.