These "gremlins," as the researchers at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) have dubbed them, would be cheaper than standard drones and have a lifespan of about 20 flights.
DARPA envisions the gremlins as a middle ground between missile-like weapons, which can be used just once, and platforms like piloted aircraft, which are expensive, complex and long-lasting.
"We wouldn't be discarding the entire airframe, engine, avionics and payload with every mission, as is done with missiles, but we also wouldn't have to carry the maintainability and operational cost burdens of today's reusable systems, which are meant to stay in service for decades," the agency said in a statement.
To launch these gremlins, the military wants to turn large C-130 cargo planes into makeshift aircraft carriers.
But first, researchers will have to develop the gremlins. DARPA put out a call last year to the aerospace industry, and on Friday announced it will host a workshop in September for potential "proposers."