Sky Cranes are controlled by either human pilots or onboard artificial intelligence units (though they are usually piloted by the latter), and can be used for both space and atmospheric flight duties. They are deployed from battlecruisers, like the USIS Texas, or smaller frigates by way of hangars resembling a hanging rack structure, in which the dropships are placed facing downwards. The main role of the Sky Crane is to drop Armored Infantry soldiers onto the battlefield via a process called Burning In. Their secondary role is to deploy vehicles for use by USIF soldiers.
A Sky Crane will fly 15,000 feet above the battle and roll to the side before launching the Armored Infantry soldiers straight towards the ground. When delivering battlefield support items and vehicles such as tanks, they fly low over the battlezone, release their cargo, and make a rapid exit to avoid enemy fire.
In the days following the USIF victory in the Outer Rim War, Sky Cranes underwent major aesthetic changes; they now bear closer resemblance to older first-model Griffin dropships once used by its enemies, the Arm of Orion and Orion's Spear. Sky Cranes were also outfitted with an arsenal of weapons in order to better support ground troops, including attached rocket launchers, missiles, and machine guns.
- In Section 8: Prejudice, if one attempts to collide with a Sky Crane, the player would go right through it. The same is with jetpacking up to it. Essentially, it is intangible but can still be damaged by enemy fire.
- Sky Cranes do not have separate struts, footpads, or wheels for landing. Their giant wings and thrusters act as VTOL landing mechanisms instead, the thrusters aligning themselves perpendicular to the ground to act as "legs" for the landing Sky Crane. They can also land on their "bellies" if the surface is a proper dropship landing pad.