Future UAV Pilots May Skip Real Flying

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Unmanned aerial vehicles are becoming more vital all the time to military operations, and as their capabilities develop, demand for trained pilots is expanding. "[UAV] missions are no longer support operations, they are the operations," USAF Col. Scott Murray told Defense News recently. The Air Force is working on a report, to be released in December, that will lay out plans for UAV development through 2047, according to Defense News. Meanwhile, the Air Force will start next year for the first time to train UAV pilots who will not have any actual flight experience. The training will be a "beta test," according to Aviation.com, but if it is successful, the Air Force hopes to create a separate training track specifically for UAV operators, rather than choosing trainees from the pilot pool. "Fully half of the aircraft that the Air Force will be buying in the future are going be unmanned," Col. Curt Sheldon told Aviation.com. "Getting in early is not a bad thing."

Also this week, the U.S. Special Operations Command said it expects to take delivery of the first of 10 new A160T Hummingbird UAV helicopters by the end of this year. This new vehicle, which was under development for a decade, weighs three tons and can fly up to 30,000 feet and stay aloft for over 18 hours at a time. As the capabilities of UAVs continue to evolve, it seems inevitable that pressure will increase to expand their use in civilian airspace.