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Drone Pilots Pilot Pilotless Air Force Drones

Updated on September 2, 2012

Some call it the "Joystick" war. It is a type of future war, using remote piloted drones to conduct surveillance and attack enemy targets. They are small, quiet and fly so high, they are nearly invisible. Their cameras watch, zoom in on faces, follow. When the time is right, an order is given and a missile streaks from nowhere into a human killing them, maybe others nearby. But the most unique thing about drones over Afghanistan or Iraq or wherever is that many of them of steered, piloted from the East Coast of America. The drone is based in Afghanistan or nearby, the pilot of it is 7000 miles away in a small room with 3-4 screens, computers. For the pilots of the drones, there is an odd disconnect with what they do, especially when orders come to take the target out. They kill someone, a person with a family and kids riding a scooter somewhere 7000 miles away, then, leave the work, get in the car, go home, and help his kids with homework. Usually, there are two operators controlling the drone-the pilot and the camera operator. Sometimes, surveillance lasts days or weeks, and the drone voyeurs, intrude on the suspects family life and wait until the target is alone to kill him. Sometimes, the pilot of the drone begins to see bad things that maybe they have done themselves. This makes pulling the trigger to kill a problem.

When the target is destroyed, few pilots relish it. They just convince themselves it is for the better, for America, but they never forget. Most state they seldom lose sleep over pulling the trigger. Orders are orders.

The Air Force has about 1300 drone pilots and they need more. Drones fly over Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, Afghanistan. These pilots fly drones 24\7. They are training more drone pilots than real aircraft pilots now. New pilots go through 40 hours of training in a Cessna aircraft before they train for being a drone pilot. Of course, many of the current pilots are real pilots that once flew F-15s etc. Many times, drone pilots will watch a target for six hours until the right moment for the kill.


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    • perrya profile image

      perrya 5 years ago

      Good question, I am sure there are checks and approvals before the OK is given.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 5 years ago from Long Island, NY

      The mission these remote pilots have is sad indeed. But at the same time, it is a necessary evil that needs to be used in fight terrorists, if done right.

      I wonder who actually makes the judgement call to decide when to fire on a suspect, even when they may have their family within fire range?