What we now call drones were round basketball shaped flying machines that would shoot enemy soldiers, but not friendly soldiers. The big secret was how they knew which was which. The big secret revealed at the end of the story was that they shot (bullets) at any one that shot at it.

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    There's a story by Larry Niven, Cloak of Anarchy with round basketball-sized drones that stun people. Not soldiers though; people who get violent in a no-violence zone. – Mr Lister Aug 18 '15 at 6:21
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    I believe you’re thinking of U.S. military contractor sales brochures from the past ten years. – Paul D. Waite Aug 18 '15 at 8:55
  • Not sure exactly what it is you're looking for, but the first thing that popped into my head where the drones from "Oblivion": i137.photobucket.com/albums/q201/aircav14/… – onewho Aug 18 '15 at 14:35

Sounds a little like screamers http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0114367/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

There is a special device they use to not be attacked and I'd say some of the screamers we see are about the size of basketballs. They don't actually fly, but there are scenes which could make you misremember flight capabilities.

Image of a fallen Type 1 Screamer

Best I can do as the question is written.

  • Have you seen Screamers? They burrow under the ground and aren't shaped like basketballs at all. They don't shoot anyone either. They exclusively stab and cut. – Daft Aug 18 '15 at 12:44
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    Also my first thought from the title, though I actually thought of the original Philip K Dick story Second Variety. – Eborbob Aug 18 '15 at 13:25
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    And the original story did describe them as "a churning sphere of blades and metal". – FuzzyBoots Aug 18 '15 at 14:26

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