The BBC has managed to get a rare, fascinating look at a day in the life of a US drone pilot. And while some of you might be quick to brush the task off as glorified gaming, Lt Col Bruce Black's insights should take care of that for you.
There was a bit of separation between one reality and the other. It looked like a typical squadron, everyone would show up for their call, and we would have a briefing for the first part of our shift. What was unusual about our particular mission was that when you got into a box—what we called the ground control station—you were flying an airplane that was already flying. You were taking on that mission and continuing what was already going on.
And with as fast as a drone operator needs to switch frames of mind, there's no time for easing into things—you never know who's watching.
One particular mission had some political sensitivities to it, and as we were transferring up to go to that mission, on the computer screen where we communicate with each other (and 90% of our communications are done over the internet), I got a whisper from somebody. I don't know who it was.... He said, "Don't screw up. The President's watching."
Though the President watching might seem like a distraction, it's going to take a lot more than that to knock you of focus. This is a wildly immersive experience
When you are sitting in the box flying one of these things, you lose sense of the fact you are sitting in Nevada. You get so into what's going on.... You completely lose track of the fact that you are sitting in a Conex box, sitting in Las Vegas. You are pitch in the middle of this battle.... You're talking to the in-bounds; you're talking to the air controller; you're talking to the guy that's being shot at; you're trying to coordinate with the Pentagon; you're trying to coordinate with the combined operations center there in Qatar. Then all of a sudden the door opens on the box, and the next pilot and sensor operator walk in. And it's like, "Oh my god... I'm not in Afghanistan." It's bizarre—extremely strange.
At the very least, the interview will leave you questioning any assumptions you may have had about drone operators themselves. Head on over to the BBC to hear the interview in full here. [BBC via Fark]
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