US drone pilots are ‘exhausted’ and ‘demoralized’ – official report

AFP Photo / Getty Images / John Moore

AFP Photo / Getty Images / John Moore

​The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) has produced a scathing report detailing the Air Force’s mismanagement of its active-duty drone pilots, who are responsible for the most demanding and deadly missions in the entire US military.

US senators asked the GAO to investigate how the Air Force treated its pilots back in 2012, following previous reports of pilot issues, and in view of the massive expansion of America’s secretive drone pilot army. Since President Barack Obama was elected in 2008, the number of drone pilots has tripled, and now stands at over 1,300.

The picture that emerges is of an organization struggling to cope with such growth, and unsure of how to handle its newest division. The Air Force “faces challenges to recruit, develop, and retain pilots and build their morale,” says the 54-page field study.

Many problems stem from an initial inability to select enough psychologically appropriate and technically proficient candidates.

The report shows that the majority of RPA [Remotely Piloted Aircraft] operators are siphoned off from the ordinary pilot corps. This is not considered a fast-track career; all ten anonymous focus groups that the GAO interviewed for its study believe it …read more