Demand grows for UAV pilots, sensor operators

From Air Force Times

By Jeff Schogol and Markeshia Ricks – Staff writers
Posted : Saturday Apr 21, 2012 10:17:35 EDT

They’ve been accused of being nothing more than video gamers: Operating unmanned aircraft from thousands of miles away while being able to see their families at the end of their shifts.

Some resent that drone pilots can get flight pay while never leaving the ground, but the Air Force recognizes the increasing reliance by combatant commanders on the drone community and is working to keep the pilots and sensor operators it has, while getting airmen from non-flight-rated backgrounds into the virtual cockpit.

For Tech. Sgt. Ryan, joining the drone community offers him a chance to get into the fight.

Ryan is assigned to the 588th Flying Training Squadron at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, and is one of several airmen from non-flight-rated backgrounds who are learning to fly or operate the cameras on unmanned aircraft. Like all other airmen involved with unmanned aircraft, the Air Force allows him to be identified only by his first name for security reasons.