Report: Air Force faces shortage in drone pilots

Meanwhile safety concerns about domestic drones pique after Virginia crash

By Natasha Lennard

Published August 26, 2013 2:45PM (EDT)


According to a new report from the Brookings Institution on drone programs, the Air Force's demand for pilots to man the unmanned aerial vehicles outstrips supply.

The Air Force reportedly aimed to train 150 specialized drone pilots in 2012, but failed to meet that number due to a shortage of volunteers. RT reported:

One of the biggest hurdles faced by the Air Force drone program is a high rate of attrition among its pilots, which is three times higher than that of traditional aircraft pilots. Underpinning that rate of personnel loss are low potential for advancement, owing to the drone fleet’s high frequency of CAPs, or combat air patrols.

Compared to traditional manned aircraft, it usually takes three to four drones to constitute what the Air Force considers a combat air patrol. Ultimately, drone operators face a punishing rotation, with little time left for additional education and training leading to rank advancement.

Meanwhile, fueling concerns that the proliferation of domestic drones to local law enforcement and for commercial purposes is lacking robust safety protections, a drone crashed into a Virginia crowd at a motor sports event over the weekend.

Via the Washington Post:

A drone crashed into the grandstand at Virginia Motorsports Park during the Great Bull Run, said Major W.B. Knott, of the Dinwiddie County sheriff’s office, reporting what might be described as the dramatic encounter between a controversial piece of hardware and a controversial spectacle.

As noted here last week, the FAA plans to establish six test sites for commercial drones in the United States and numerous states are currently in hot competition to become hosts of the new drone economy.

Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email

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Air Force Domestic Drones Drone Pilots Drone Program Drones Uas Uavs Virginia