After more than a decade of growth, the United States Air Force will soon be cutting back their drone program. Of the more than 1,200 drone pilots currently serving, a large number of them are at the end of their service obligation and many are opting to leave. Cuts will see peak drone flights fall from the current 65 a day to 60 in just a few months. This means that the number of strikes required is set to increase in the face of the campaigns against the Islamic State and other targets.
Unlike the Army, the Air Force requires pilots to be commissioned officers, which narrows down the field quite a bit. The monotonous alternating day and night shifts in a metal box are also not what most pilots think of when they are signing up. Despite being closer to a simulator, all drone pilots are actual pilots who can pilot real planes. Combined with an understaffed and what many consider a dead end position, many pilots are preferring to move on. Stress is also high as the pilots are still being made to make life and death decisions, sometimes with shaky intel. Private drone operators are also paid as much as 4 times Air Force operators are as well.
While many may point to the drone as the future of warfare, as long as we require a pilot at the controls, the human toll remains at both ends. In some sense, it answers the question even if we’re seeing something through a screen or other device, as long as it’s real, it’s effects are real and no sense of distance might be enough to dampen that effect. Another question that remains is if those operating a device through software should be just as qualified as those physically operating the hardware.
Thank you New York Times for the information