On March 26, the U.S. Navy announced plans to award four firm-fixed-price contracts to develop prototype Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) drones. This is on top of a similar project, already in the works, to develop a fleet of Unmanned Combat Air Systems (UCAS).

Billions of dollars are at stake as each of Boeing (NYSE:BA), Northrop Grumman (NYSE:NOC), Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT), and General Atomics lock their targeting radars on these contracts. Who will emerge victorious? With the Pentagon set to spend $5.6 billion on drone purchases this year alone, and more in years to come, it's a question worth asking, and a trend in weapons purchases worth watching.

Motley Fool contributor Rich Smith explains in the following video.

Fool contributor Rich Smith has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.