Friday, August 23, 2013

One Limit on the Drone Force: Finding Enough Pilots


Air Force pilots want to be in the shit, apparently. Military action via drone, be it for intelligence, surveillance or fighting purposes has increased exponentially in the past 20 years, but according to a report published by Air Force Col. Bradley Hoagland for the Brookings Institute, the demand for operators may be outpacing the supply of proper volunteers.

Hoagland published two reports on Aug 6, "Manning The Next Unmanned Air Force: Developing RPA Pilots Of The Future" and "Where Are All The Good Drone Pilots?" which both highlight the military's growing drone army, which lacks the manpower to manage it. 

According to Hoagland, the remotely-piloted aircraft (RPA) sector had around 50 people in the late '90s, and it has grown to greater than 1,300 people. That rate is expected to keep growing, but as the combat air patrol field swells, the Air Force cannot train enough people to fill it out. The Air Force "is not properly identifying and professionally developing these pilots," the report states. 

It's a bit peculiar that the report skirts past the stress and psychological strains of the position, seeing as there have been numerous articles and research that suggests drone operators experience as much trauma and stress as officers in other military sectors. One piece even cited a survey that stated 48 percent of RPA operators had "high operational stress." While the report acknowledges mental health and PTSD issues that may dissuade new recruits, it mostly focuses on "the RPA community."

For the rest of the story:

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