RAF Should Hire Drone Operators “Out of the PlayStation Bedroom”
Peter Donnell / 7 years ago
Should the RAF be looking for their next-generation of drone pilots in the gaming market? Retired commander for the British Royal Air Force (RAF) certainly thinks so. Former Air Marshal, Greg Bagwell, once oversaw the RAF’s Reaper Drone operations and thinks that gamers are the perfect candidates. It makes sense, I mean, gamers managed to complete that bloody helicopter mission in GTA IV, so we must have some talent for it.
“We need to test harder whether we can take a young 18 or 19-year-old out of their PlayStation bedroom and put them into a Reaper cabin and say: ‘Right, you have never flown an aircraft before [but] that does not matter, you can operate this’,” Bagwell said.
What he’s saying does make sense, as I wouldn’t expect someone who plays a lot of games to be able to jump into a fighter jet and get going just because they’ve played Battlefield. However, drones don’t require the same level of training or physical endurance, it’s a pick up a controller and operate them like a video game. Of course, the consequences of your actions are a lot more real, as the drones in questions are designed for missions against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and they’re without a doubt killing machines. Bagwell did comment that the law needs checking to ensure operators have the confidence their strikes are lawful and to help to deal with the psychological pressure of operating drones; it might work like a game, but it’s certainly not.
“In order to be a very good Reaper operator you need that three-dimensional view of what is going on around you, even though you are 3,000 miles away,” he explained. “You are playing three-dimensional chess in your mind, so you understand how the various pieces fit together in terms of prosecuting a target.”
Gen Sir Richard Barrons, a joint forces commander who retired in April, added “We need to set ourselves up for a future where a combination of robotics, autonomous systems and artificial systems will create capabilities that our enemies may have before we do – where machines kill on the basis of an algorithm without a human in the room,” said Barrons.
“That is not science fiction and it will not be very long before western armed forces are acquiring capability like that, and they will need to be absolutely clear what rules we have and when they apply.”
So there you have it, they think gamers would make (in terms of technical abilities) good drone pilots, which certainly makes sense to me, but I wonder how many would actually want to apply for what sounds like an extremely stressful and possition.