The Romulan drone-ship was an advanced experimental attack starship described as a marauder and developed by the Romulans in the 2150s. At least two prototypes of the vessel were built. The starship itself was a modified Romulan Warbird, with its propulsion systems and command circuitry largely identical to the typical Romulan warship of that era. The bridge consoles were still present when Trip Tucker and Malcolm Reed were able to gain access to the bridge. It was quite small in comparison to the Enterprise NX-01. The vessel was designed to be remotely controlled from Romulus by an Aenar pilot as chief among its many modifications. The drone-ship was controlled from an operations tower in the Romulan capital by the Aenar pilot, who was forced to pilot the warship against his will. Two Romulan officers oversaw its operation, as it was of special interest to the Romulan Senate.
The ship's bridge was dominated by a large subspace transceiver to receive its remote orders from Romulus. The interior was confining and cramped, with bulkheads exposing data cables at various points throughout the ship. Because of its lack of crew, much of the ship was devoid of a life support system. In addition, the drone-ship featured an auto-repair system that allowed it to correct damage sustained during combat.
The vessel was a formidable adversary in combat. Its weapons were very powerful for its time, inflicting major damage on its targets. Its ability to self-repair proved an asset during battle, where damage could begin to be corrected almost immediately. Without the need for inertial dampeners to protect a crew, the drone was much more maneuverable than the average manned vessel, capable of dodging photonic torpedoes with deft barrel rolls.
In 2154, the Romulan drone-ship was given the task of destabilizing potential political alliances between Earth, the Andorians, and the Tellarites. It was equipped with an advanced multispectral emitter system, which when activated allowed the ship to assume the appearance of nearly any other vessel. The drone-ship's disruptors used tri-phasic emitters, which could mimic the weapon signature of a wide range of other ships, from Andorian particle cannons and Tellarite disruptors to Starfleet phase cannons.
Using these unique abilities, the drone-ship threatened to provoke a war between the Andorians and Tellarites, first by destroying Andorian commander Shran's warship Kumari in the guise of a Tellarite vessel, then by attacking the vessel carrying the Tellarite ambassador, this time posing as an Andorian warship. The Romulans later threatened to draw the Humans, and potentially their allies the Vulcans, into the conflict, when the drone destroyed a Rigelian scout ship while mimicking the appearance of the starship Enterprise.
Ultimately, the drone ship's presence may have caused what the Romulans had hoped to avoid: an alliance against them. The appearance of a common enemy united the Andorians, Tellarites, Humans, and Vulcans, who attacked the drone and eventually forced it to withdraw to Romulan space.
The Romulans subsequently launched a second drone-ship which was used in combination with the first to attack Enterprise. Both drone-ships were destroyed when Jhamel, an Aenar, used Enterprise's telepresence unit to interfere, asking the pilot – her brother, Gareb – to stop his attack. Realizing his sister was on board the ship he was attacking, Gareb was strong enough to overcome the Romulans' control, and had the two drone-ships attack and destroy each other, thwarting the Romulans' attempt to destabilize the region.
In the 25th century timeline of Star Trek Online, Drone Ships are used by both the Romulan Star Empire and the breakaway Romulan Republic. In the Republic, drone ships are deployable by the Scimitar line of Dreadnought Warbirds. Like the original versions, drone ships are able to use their multispectral and tri-phasic emitters to mimic the appearance and weapon properties of various opposing ships, including Miranda-class frigates, Borg probes, Klingon Birds-of-Prey, and others. Unlike the originals, though, the drone ships are controlled remotely by the crew of the ship and do not need an Aenar pilot to function.