back to article US Air Force may allow killbots to be flown by non-pilots

The new head of the US Air Force - replacing an officer who was fired at least in part for dragging his feet on unmanned air operations - has hinted that the service may relax its rule that drone aircraft must be flown by fully qualified military pilots. Answering written questions from Senators prior to his confirmation …


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  1. EvilJason
    Black Helicopters

    I wonder...

    How long till there is a Americas Army version where you can fly your own predator drone with realistic control and graphics and recruitment letters getting sent to the top 100 people on the leader boards heh

  2. Frank Bough
    Black Helicopters

    Western De-Skilling Continues Apace

    ..I wonder what these gamers are going to do when they find hman enemies are a bit more sophisticated than XBox AI? Surely this is just handing WW3 to the Chinese on a plate?

  3. amanfromMars Silver badge

    The Temptation of St Athan

    "then by God you'll still have a pilot." That is as may be and they will have to be Virtual AIMaster Pilots in the Beta Management of Perception with Quantum Communications Control for Virtual TelePortation with the ESPecialised Application of ProgramMIngs.

    :-) Beam me up, Scotty Darling.

  4. FlatSpot

    Comfort Factor

    hmm that looks quite uncomfortable, cant they add a large steering wheel like a bus driver would have? :)

  5. Hollerith

    why don't they outsource that excellent company, once part of Halliburton, that's doing such an excellent job in Iraq supporting the American forces there? They are clearly competent, not interested in anything but serving their country, and have amongst their employees only top-calibre, ethical people who respect diversity.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How long till there is a Americas Army?

    And how long then til the top rated players are sent on real missions with the simulator as the interface to the real deal?

    "Son, you know that game you thought you were playing? Well it was real."

  7. Reptar

    Remotely manned?

    Shouldn't the term be "remotely manned"? Since there is actually someone sat in the pilots seat, it's just that the pilots seat is very, very far away.

    Just a thought.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Can't wait....

    ....for "Battlefield 2018 - Total Reality Edition", in which all the players are flying actual drones during the China/Russia vs USA conflict.

    Kill commies with the Playstation 5, right from your moms basement.

  9. Stef


    I saw something on TV earlier in the year (No, not April 1st) that showed a branch of the US military (can't recall if it was army/air force/navy) using the Xbox360 controller to pilot an unmanned flying craft. Apparently it does a great job thanks to its analogue controls. They made the comment that why should they reinvent the wheel.

  10. Joe Cooper


    I think they should outsource to China.

  11. Steve

    Re: why don't they outsource

    " that excellent company, once part of Halliburton, that's doing such an excellent job in Iraq supporting the American forces there?"

    I fail to see the benefit in handing this over to the Republican party.

  12. David Webb

    Buy British

    There you go, you missed an opportunity to recommend the British version over the American version, except of course you slated the British version for doing what the Americans want their drones to do.....

  13. Steven Knox
    Black Helicopters

    Ender's Game

    They should make it an online game. For kids. Everyone knows they have quicker reaction times and better ability to adapt to new games.

    It should be pretty easy to make the lower levels simulations, so only those qualified get to the upper levels (i.e, actual flights).

  14. Anonymous Coward

    @I wonder

    So rather like the ending of Ender's Game then? Damn those buggers to heck!

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    @Steven Knox

    Darn darn darn, you got your Ender's Game comment in before me.

  16. Duncan Brewer

    Pity about Molesey

    I met him a while back and he came across like a good chap. Open and honest but at the end of the day he's too pilot-centric.

    Still, sooner or later the UCAVs will be autonomous (at least for flight, if not weapons delivery). Reaper makes a nice stop-gap until the Sky Warrior is available and then whatever the next best craft is.

  17. StopthePropaganda

    old sci fi-prior art

    IIRC, it was "Last Child Under The Mountain". petulant and sullen kid destroys enemies and allies alike because he wants the highest score.

  18. Adam Foxton

    "control up to 6.. at a time"

    so that'd be an RTS game style interface then?

    Actually, that'd be fantastic- take the sensor data from UAVs, Land Warrior kit, sensor-equipped vehicles, satellite data, and so on. And stick it all into a 3D RTS simulation. Heirarchical control (i.e. overall commander tells his guys what to do through the interface, the guys control 6 Predators each), full 3D graphics AND an easy-to-use interface.

    Only problem is that they'd lose really quickly if they were fighting the Koreans...

    It's the one with the Jim Raynor ID tag

  19. Graham Marsden

    Not forgetting...

    ... The Last Starfighter.

  20. Mike Lovell
    Thumb Down

    @Frank Bough

    "..I wonder what these gamers are going to do when they find hman enemies are a bit more sophisticated than XBox AI? Surely this is just handing WW3 to the Chinese on a plate?"

    Sir, you do the XBox AI a great disservice

  21. Graeme

    Non pilots

    "There is control software in test nowadays which will allow a single, not especially highly trained operator to handle up to six drones at once"

    and it'll be a roaring sucess right up until they crash one into a 747 full of GI's on short Finals into Bagdhad/ Kabul

    just a shame a few hundred people may die to prove a point, maybe with luck it'll just be a Cargo flight

    Roumor has it the Royal Artillery have already managed to crash one of their Bugger-off into the moving rotors of a helicopter, on the ground at the time

  22. Bad Beaver
    Thumb Up

    @ Graeme

    I can see the follow-up interview with the remote pilot already. "See, Sean rushed to the door when the pizza was delivered, and he like totally knocked over my Mountain Dew, and I was like "man, watchit!" and when I found the can under the desk the signal from the drone was totally gone, like, gone, the drone was gone"

  23. Steen Hive

    Oh great.

    So now the <insert your disparaging label here> will not only see "Our brave boys formerly on the Eastern front" as infidels, but as terminators as well. Which is, come to think of it, surprisingly accurate.

  24. Martin Usher

    Globalism comes full circle

    >Kill commies with the Playstation 5, right from your moms basement..

    Turn the thing over and read the "Made in China" label.

    In the book "Shock Doctrine" it was noted that the way things are progressing sees parts of the same corporation selling the weapons needed to flatten a country, services to relief agencies that deal with the aftermath and rebuilding services to rebuild what they flattened. Its not that far fetched; relatively few people know about one of the outstanding things that had to be settled at the end of WW1 was the the fuses on the shells used by the British to kill Germans were subject to a German patent and attracted royalties to the patent holder.

  25. Doug Glass

    The Game's Afoot

    Shades of "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card. I understand the first non-pilot is a fellow named Andrew Wiggin.

    Maybe astronaut Edgar Mitchell knows something after all.

  26. Doug Glass

    "Speaker For The Dead"

    RE:Ender's Game

    By Steven Knox

    Posted Friday 25th July 2008 13:19 GMT

    I see you've read a little of the good stuff too. :+)

  27. Zmodem


    they be easy when at war with a country that has biplanes

  28. peter
    Paris Hilton


    Women tend to be better at this kind of thing, like welding it requires good hand to eye co-ord, patience and reliable performance levels on every operation. Welding offers artistic expression and instant job satisfaction though, the very best welders are all female.

    There isn't the physical side of G-forces or enemy capture, instead of the single minded focus of men, who get fustrated and lapse in concentration, the women would be more likely to suffer boredom instead of failure but still operate well.

    Not to say women would find it exciting but they could do a much better job without suffering the stress or the autistic focus men have.

  29. mike
    Thumb Down

    @ Frank Bough

    in regards to Xbox AI....any gamer worth their salt plays online against real people(oh so that's what that Xbox Live thing is).

    if you want to make a comment on a 'Western De-skilling', at least provide a rational argument instead of your ignorant view of video games.

  30. gollux

    Full speed ahead and ....

    Damn the friendly fire. Expect terror from the skies wrecking havoc on enemy and friendly alike. Gotta admit it makes for one really cool video game. A shame you can't uplevel and dieing means you can't automatically respawn. Maybe aerial nanobots will take care of that.

  31. Charles Manning

    Drones piss easy to fly?

    Dunno about these drones, but a while ago some drones were already being designed to be dirt simple to fly. Onboard software prevents most of the deadly conditions for which you need any piloting skill (stalling, slipping etc). Just command in a "climb" or "turn left" movement and the drone software does all the complicated rudder/aileron/whatever manipulation. That makes it easier to fly a drone than drive a truck.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    Flyboys get bored Geeks don't

    Zap! Kerpow! Got another one.

    Now for the next level.

    Don't worry about friendly fire there are no real people out there anyway.

  33. Stef

    The Last Starfighter

    Anyone remember the film The Last Starfighter? A trailerpark kid is recruited to save the galaxy because he got the top score on a video game.

    By peter about women: "There isn't the physical side of G-forces"

    It was my understanding that female pilots handled G-forces better than their male counterparts due to quirks in the anatomical differences (according to the discovery channel many many years ago)

  34. Dave Hilling


    they had tons of ncos flying planes if i remember correctly and they did a great job.

  35. Anonymous Coward

    It the end of the era of steam.... oh wait..

    It is only recently here in Canada that the railways stopped having firemen, brakemen on their trains. Thanks to a real strong union these brawny and diligent coal shovellers and caboose minders had jobs for life, even though the trains went diesel half a century ago and the controls went electronic with the commensurate disappearance of the caboose just a few decades past.

    I see these jet jockeys are in the same pickle and you will be dragging the control sticks from-their-cold-dead-hands. Either that or the brass et al, gets their early retirement packages for being mutton heads.

    With all this bluster and smoke blowing you know theres going to be someones hands in your pocket soon enough.

  36. Ishkandar

    @Martin Usher

    Actually the reverse is also true. The machineguns that the Germans massed hub-to-hub in the Western Front were subject to the patent rights of Sir Hiram Maxim.

  37. Guybrush Threepwood

    The Stargate Connection

    Before you start yes I know it's scraping the entertainment barrel but I can't resist! Anyhoo, there's an episode where the team turn up on whatever conveniently human inhabited planet and fly remote control drones, only to find out they are flying them for Nazi's. The America's Army comment from the AC made me think that this move away from actual human contact in war makes it all the more easy for armed services personnel to remain oblivious to the horrors they inflict. What if this tech was availbale for Vietnam, would the veterans anti war movement have even existed, let alone have the gravitas it did if the worst injuries were RSI and soldiers never had to step over the bodies of those they killed? I feel a bit angry/sick just thinking about it to be honest, or maybe that was the Inq's coverage of the spammer suicide...

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