Drone Pilots are Now the Largest Pilot Position in the Air Force

According to numbers reported on Military.com, the drone pilot position is now the largest pilot position in the US Air Force. Even discounting pilots of the larger Global Hawk drones, the 1,000 pilots that currently fly the smaller Predator and Reaper drones are the largest single pilot group, easily exceeding the 889 airmen that fly the C-17 aircraft.

Given the regularity the US Air Force uses drones this is not a surprise, but it does show just how swiftly drones have made an impact on the way the US military uses air power. Drones are having similar impact on the civilians side of of things as well. It was over a year ago, in February of 2016, that the official number of registered drones surpassed the official number of registered manned aircraft. It’s also estimated that since Part 107 was passed, there has been an average of 300 new drones pilots a day. While the total number of drone pilots is still far below the number of certified pilots in the US, the number of drone pilots is rapidly increase while the numbers of manned aircraft pilots has been decreasing for years.

War Drones (Jan. 10)

War Drones is Drone Dossier’s weekly roundup of new stories related to military drones. See the roundup below.

  • The US Defense Department announced they have carried out the largest test of drone swarms on US soil. 103 Perdix drones were released by three F/A-18 fighter jets. According to the Defense Department the Perdix are not pre-programmed synchronized individuals, they are a collective organism, sharing one distributed brain for decision-making and adapting to each other like swarms in nature. Because every Perdix communicates and collaborates with every other Perdix, the swarm has no leader and can gracefully adapt to drones entering or exiting the team.
  • The Army Research Laboratory is looking into using 3D printing to create on-demand drones for combat operations. During operations, a patrol could request a UAV for a specific support mission and tell a nearby 3D drone printing facilities exactly what they need. Then 24 hours later they have their own custom built UAV for the specifications they requested.

  • If you are looking to learn more about the “surreal” experience of America’s drone pilots of Creech Air Force base outside of Las Vegas, Nevada then this BBC article is a must read. Pilots at the base remotely control US combat drones overseas and talk about commuting to war. From the article: “When they walk through the gate, they’re in a war. Although physically they are at home, mentally they’re at war. So in effect we’re asking them to redeploy every single day, to go back home and be parents and be loved ones – and then come back to war again”. Such are the new frontiers of the modern battlefield.
  • Textron has received a $206 million contract to perform sustainment services for the U.S. Army’s Shadow tactical unmanned aircraft system. The Shadow V2 is a multipurpose unmanned aerial vehicle that can be deployed individually or paired with manned and unmanned platforms.
  • Shephard Media looks back at military UAVs in 2016 and forward to their development in the coming years. The bottom line is that drones are now a well established force worldwide and will only grow. Shephard gives a look into some developments from nations, like the USA, UK, France, China and India.

23,000 Newly Registered Drone Pilots

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Since the FAA passed its new Part 107 regulations (which require all those who use a drone for commercial use to pass a test to become a registered drone pilot) nearly 23,000 have become licensed drone pilots.

According to numbers from the FAA from the end of August till the middle of December 28,000 people applied to become licensed drone pilots and 22,959 passed. That is a passing rate of 82%, which seems very high. For comparison in September of 2015 the State of California Deportment of Motor Vehicles administered 243,000 knowledge tests for road driving and only had a pass rate of 45%.

In order to become a licensed pilot all one has to do is study and take a test and a local test center, but don’t forget to register your drone as well.