Flying Your Own Military Drone: A User Manual

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When was the last time you read the instruction manual that came with anything? Maybe never—they're usually worth tossing. Unless, of course, you're going to pilot and kill someone with a Predator drone. In that case, read this.

This leaked manual, released by PublicIntelligence and orignally published by the Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems group in 2010, spells out how to fly, maintain, troubleshoot, and generally get your UAV war on in intricate detail.

Wanna know what frequencies a Predator chatters on it? C-band digital 5.25 – 5.85 GHz.


What are the general responsibilities of a killer drone when it's in the air?

 Contribute to and share the common operational picture (COP)
 Provide early and accurate information (e.g. enemy approach)
to protected force
 Maintain persistent surveillance on avenues of approach
 Gain and maintain enemy contact to ensure continuous
information flow
 Report enemy activity
 Destroy, repel or suppress enemy reconnaissance units
without decisive engagement
 Impede and harass the enemy with indirect fires
 Guide reaction forces


How much does a fresh GBU-38 smart bomb for a Reaper drone cost? $35,000 a pop.

And hey, look—drone pilots use Toughbooks in the field, in case they spill their coffee.


It also looks like they're using some seriously ugly-ass software to control and communicate with the autonomous birds—can we send some tax dollars to the Instagram team to cook up a more appealing UI?


The guide here probably contains some information that's changed since 2010, but still gives an incredible look at both the complexity and mundanity of drone operation. It's as jargonized as any other Pentagon system, but ultimately, it's just like using any other gadget. Granted, a gadget that can fire $35,000 bombs.

You can read the manual in its entirety below. [via PublicIntelligence]