Wanted: drone pilots. Bristol volunteer soldiers being trained to fly unmanned aircraft

Wanted: drone pilots. Bristol volunteer soldiers being trained to fly unmanned aircraft


By KenMcCormick

THEY are among the most advanced and controversial pieces of military hardware in the world today.

Now volunteer soldiers from Bristol are being trained to handle drones: remote-controlled aircraft which fly above war zones.

More than 20 part-time Army Reserve soldiers from Bristol are heading for California next month to step up training in handling the aircraft – and the Army is looking for more recruits to carry out the role.

Officially known as unmanned aerial vehicles, drones carry out a variety of roles.

In recent years the use of US armed drones to attack insurgents in Afghanistan and Pakistan has been controversial after a series of incidents where civilians were killed.

But the Ministry of Defence says the unmanned air system (UAS) the Bristol soldiers are being trained to use is unarmed and used to provide an ‘eye in the sky’ for troops on the ground.

It says the Reservists with 266 (Gloucestershire Volunteer Artillery) Battery, based at the Artillery Grounds on Whiteladies Road, will operate hand-launched, battery-powered Desert Hawk III surveillance aircraft, controlled from a portable ground station.

The drone operates within a 15km radius, streaming live video images, day or night, to a touch-screen laptop, scouting safe routes for patrols, looking for suspicious activity and helping target support for troops in need of assistance.

Tomorrow 266 Battery will hold an open day at its base in Whiteladies Road where anyone interested in joining up can find out more.

Lance Bombardier Hannah Wolsey, aged 27, of Redland, has already finished an operator’s course at Camp Roberts, between San Francisco and Los Angeles, and return next month for a pilot’s course.

She said: “It’s a marvellous challenge for all for us – quite a change from our previous gunnery role.

“As a unit, it also gives us a great future because clearly there will always be a need for eyes in the sky for operations and intelligence-gathering almost anywhere in the world.

“We work in teams of three and take responsibility for mission planning, launch and recovery of Desert Hawk III, in-flight control and processing of video feeds – and need to know how to reconstruct it after landing.”

Hannah, a qualified ski instructor with a keen interest in First World War history, works as a PA at MoD Abbey Wood in Filton.
Read more: http://www.bristolpost.co.uk/Wanted-drone-pilots-Bristol-volunteer-soldiers/story-20909938-detail/story.html#ixzz2xzHnDXhL