Piloting Military Drones Is Not Like Playing a Videogame

Greg Tito

PR for Dungeons & Dragons
Sep 29, 2005
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Piloting Military Drones Is Not Like Playing a Videogame



RAF pilots take their jobs very seriously.

The growth of the use of unmanned aircraft has been astronomical over the past decade. The U.S. military alone employs more 7,500 unmanned aircraft in places like Afghanistan, accounting for more than 40% of the aircraft under the control of the Department of Defense. While the typical sentiment portrays the pilots of these aircraft as nothing more than gamers dressed in uniform - mostly because they use a joystick-like device to control the drones - members of the Royal Air Force of Britain bristle under that comparison.

"I've had the accusation levelled that it's a Star Wars game. It's anything but. If we act like it's Star Wars, there are people in the command center watching us and listening to what we do," said a drone pilot going by the name of Oz. "The taking of human life is not something to be considered lightly. OK, they are bad guys we are killing, but they are still human beings."

Oz makes it clear that there is a person behind every action of the drone, and the rules of war and engagement do not change if he's not sitting in the cockpit personally.

"It's irrelevant where you are physically sitting. You're attached to the airframe, you're attached to the view that you see, and you're attached to the laws of armed conflict," Oz said. "The plane cannot start, cannot fly and cannot release a weapon without us doing it. Human beings are in the cockpit - exactly the same as when I was flying a Tornado. We just happen to be 8,000 miles away from the plane."

When you put it that way, it doesn't seem like a videogame at all. In fact, the amount of oversight and caution that using drones allows the military is astounding really. Because the unmanned aircraft can stay aloft longer, the pilots delay pulling the trigger until the target is confirmed. I don't know about you, but that sounds like a really boring videogame.

If you're interested, the entire profile from by Rob Blackhurst at the Telegraph [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/defence/9552547/The-air-force-men-who-fly-drones-in-Afghanistan-by-remote-control.html] is worth a full read. It's a balanced look at the typical actions of drone pilots and its implications in modern warfare.

Source: Telegraph [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/defence/9552547/The-air-force-men-who-fly-drones-in-Afghanistan-by-remote-control.html]

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gigastar

Insert one-liner here.
Sep 13, 2010
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So did any among us gamers ever have the illusion that piloting a UAV was like playing Ace Combat?
 

Andy Shandy

Fucked if I know
Jun 7, 2010
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Fuck, and I thought I'd be qualified for the RAF by playing CoD and Battlefield by now.

My life is ruined!
 

Albino Boo

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Jun 14, 2010
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Personally I have never had a a problem with drones. To quote George Patton the purpose of war is not to die for your country but make some other poor bastard to die for his. I just don't get how its somehow morally superior to drop bombs from a stealth bomber from 10,000 ft compared to firing a missile remotely.

The idea that its somehow turning it into starwars and making death casual should be reminded of the long standing incidents of friendly fire from the US airforce. In the first gulf war the US airforce did more damage to the British army than Iraqi army. The US airforce has been notorious for it for years, they only cracked down after F16s attacked Canadian special forces on a firing range. There has been a long history of trigger happiness in USAF, during WW2 the 7th tactical airforce was nick named the 7th Luftwaffe by the US army due to its habit of friendly fire.

Its not the weapons that the problem lies with but the culture of those that make the decisions about to fire or not to fire. The fact you are only risking a drone and the guy with his finger on the trigger feels that his life isn't in danger is more likely to wait to make sure before firing
 
Jan 12, 2012
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"Wait, the people flying the remote killbots don't just bomb randomly with the belief that the rest of us are respawning NPCs? Well, that's a load off my mind."

-Nobody
 

vallorn

Tunnel Open, Communication Open.
Nov 18, 2009
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And this gentlemen is why the RAF is brilliant.

Also thanks to the Telegraph for being a balanced daily with regard to video games.

...

Okay yes it is my major daily paper but at least its not the Express, Mail or god forbid... The Mirror.
 

Spartanmk1

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Feb 14, 2011
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I have a few hundred hours in Flight Sims. I could fly a plane with little to no instruction if I had to. I am sure I can handle a drone, and I have seriously been considering transferring into a Unmanned program at a University and flying like that. Unmanned flight is starting to get big in the Civilian world.
 

soren7550

Overly Proud New Yorker
Dec 18, 2008
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I'm surprised that no one posted this yet:


I mean, did we really need an article explaining this to us?
 

Albino Boo

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Jun 14, 2010
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vallorn said:
And this gentlemen is why the RAF is brilliant.

Also thanks to the Telegraph for being a balanced daily with regard to video games.

...

Okay yes it is my major daily paper but at least its not the Express, Mail or god forbid... The Mirror.

Heresy, reading the paper of the unclean, bury him alive in pile of guardians. Joking aside yeah its gaming side is good and Mic Wright blog is worth a read.
 

Kuala BangoDango

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Mar 19, 2009
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I like the comment "OK, they are bad guys we are killing, but they are still human beings."

Umm, hello. Good Guys/Bad Guys is a child's notion. You should have lost that concept by the time you reach adulthood, which I'm guessing these "pilots" are supposed to be. These "Bad Guys" are often just good guys born on the wrong side of an imaginary line drawn on a map. How anyone can label "Bad Guys" all these women and children we keep "accidentally" killing just because we thought the firewood they were carrying were guns is beyond me.

And the fact that we DO keep having these "accidental" killings is evidence to me that the only "confirmation of targets" we seem to have is that if you have someone, anyone, in your cross-hair then hey, you have a target...go ahead and shoot. Doesn't matter if we know who they actually are or not.

That's why our government has had to redefine the enemy/innocent bystander relationship to where ANYONE that dies from a drone strike is by default an enemy combatant and thus eliminates by default the very notion that there may have been innocent bystanders.

For the life of me I can't understand why we, as Americans, refuse to let other countries have the same rights as we have. If an American is out in the woods with a rifle he's "probably a hunter" and protected by Constitutional rights to bear arms. If someone in the Middle-East is out in the woods with a rifle then "Oh, he must be a bad guy, kill him."

"Oh, it's not a game to us!" Yeah, I'll believe that when I stop seeing news reports of women and children killed while gathering firewood, or entire families lined up on their knees in their own homes at night during a raid and shot in the back of the head, and then photos of our guys with cheerful grins on their faces posing with, and pissing on, dead bodies.

Just my opinion.
 

Sniper Team 4

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Apr 28, 2010
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I saw a show on one of the Discovery, Nat-Geo type channels about this once. It talked about U.S. Drone Pilots and what they did. They still have to wear their flight uniforms, still have to do drills and work out, and some get PTSD even though they are thousands of miles away. They are just as much a part of the military as the pilot of a fighter jet. I've always remembered that.
 

Jamash

Top Todger
Jun 25, 2008
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Greg Tito said:
While the typical sentiment portrays the pilots of these aircraft as nothing more than gamers dressed in uniform - mostly because they use a joystick-like device to control the drones - members of the Royal Air Force of Britain bristle under that comparison.
To be fair, that "joystick-like device" is an X-Box 360 Controller, so it's easy to see where the video game sentiment comes from.



If they didn't want people to think that controlling drones is like playing video games, then perhaps they should have been more secretive about what the use to control these drones. I remember a TV advert for the British Army that showed a young soldier controlling a UAV with a 360 controller, an advert that was on TV a lot in the prime-time and often sandwiched in between video game adverts.

At the time it blatantly seemed like the advert was trying to cash in on the popularity of Modern Warfare/Battlefield and gaming in general, so this complaint about the comparison with video games seems a bit like trying to close the stable door after the horse has bolted.
 

A Satanic Panda

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Nov 5, 2009
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Acrisius said:
Um...anyone else under the impression that this article kinda came out of nowhere, so to speak?
Well, China has been giving Japan some funny looks lately.

[small]The kind of looks people get right before they disappear[/small]
 

harvz

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Jun 20, 2010
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This very clearly isn't aimed at gamers but the people who hate video games and will do anything to stop the evil that is video games.

I don't know about any of you, but its difficult to tell the difference between KOTOR and a military drone.
 

A Satanic Panda

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Nov 5, 2009
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Acrisius said:
A Satanic Panda said:
Acrisius said:
Um...anyone else under the impression that this article kinda came out of nowhere, so to speak?
Well, China has been giving Japan some funny looks lately.

[small]The kind of looks people get right before they disappear[/small]
I don't see how that's connected to this...
As if there would suddenly be a large scale military conflict, in which these drones are used.
 

Gilhelmi

The One Who Protects
Oct 22, 2009
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Acrisius said:
A Satanic Panda said:
Acrisius said:
Um...anyone else under the impression that this article kinda came out of nowhere, so to speak?
Well, China has been giving Japan some funny looks lately.

[small]The kind of looks people get right before they disappear[/small]
I don't see how that's connected to this...
*looking around nervously*

*in a wispier* You see in WW2 Empire of Japan did thing in China that makes the Nazis look sane by comparison. China technically won WW2, but only because the US ended the war in the Pacific quickly (with 2 bombs). China and Japan have not been on "good" relations too say the least. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/People%27s_Republic_of_China%E2%80%93Japan_relations

Apparently, there is some dispute about who owns some islands, currently. I have not kept up on it like I should.

If Japan is attacked, By Treaty, America will be drawn into a full-out war with whoever attacks them. I know people say that we could take them easy, but China has 2.25 million and could potentially draft many million more (how many men over 16 are there in China, that number is their draft pool, assuming they stick too 16 witch is the minimum age for draft by the Geneva Convention). We have a standing army of 500,000 and could potentially draft 2 or 3 million more (double that if we allow women and increase the draft age range). I think we could take on a force of up too 4 times our size, but it would be a massacre on both sides.

*speaking normally* Most likely, a peaceful settlement will come about. America does not want another Pacific war and millions dead, and China does not want millions dead either. Heck, If China had the political will-power they could have invaded Taiwan a long time ago.

"Everyone knows how that would end, just not who would win the war."