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Origin

 U.S.S. Defiant
Runabouts are slightly bigger that shuttlepods and shuttle crafts that would be seen on Federation starships.  Deep Space Nine had many runabouts and it was tradition to name the runabouts after rivers on Earth.  A joke on the station was a concern about running out of rivers to name the Runabouts because they had gone through so many.  This slowed down tremendously when the Station was equipped with the Federation Ship the U.S.S. Defiant.

Creation

The creation of Runabouts came about for the television Show Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.  The creators of the show wanted the a ship bigger than a shuttle pod but not a big as a Federation ship to give the Station a means to explore the Gamma Quadrant.

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