Drone Pilots: Using a Drone Not Like Playing a Video Game

There's a common and widespread misconception among the general population that flying a drone for the United States government or military is like playing a video game, but an in-depth article on the subject from Business Insider reveals that this is simply a falsehood. In fact, if you ask actual drone pilots they will tell you that their work is nothing like a video game…

United States pilots that are using drones for surveillance in Afghanistan say that the only similarity is that they use a joystick-like device. Author Rob Blackhurst says that most drone pilots are "softly spoken and sober about the life-and-death decisions with which they were charged," as opposed to the image perpetrated by the media that drone pilots are kill happy video game players eating Cheetos and drinking Mountain Dew while they strike a village or kill a remote target.

"It's anything but," an RAF Reaper pilot called Oz told BI. "If we act like it's Star Wars, there are people in the command centre watching us and listening to what we do. 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."

Blackhurst goes on to note the high level of disdain drone pilots have to being portrayed in that light.

You can check out the entire article here.

Source: Polygon

"A remotely operated military surveillance drone" © 2012 Zern Liew / Shutterstock. All rights reserved, used with permission.

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  1. 0
    DorthLous says:

    That sentence rubbed me the wrong way. It's a perfect attempt at dehumanizing someone and taking rights from them (i.e.: right to live) in the same sentence as an affirmation that it's just another human. Gives you chills, because it's very easy to see how this mentality can be applied to just about anyone…

  2. 0
    Mr.Tastix says:

    I understand why the statement is debatable but when you take it at face value I find it quite easy to respect it.

    Naturally it may be difficult to define who the "bad guys" are (and since I don't believe in good or evil then I don't believe in a "bad guy" at all) but the general idea that every person who dies in a war is a human being is pretty damn important.

    It's one thing to go to war to defend your country and your countries people. It's another thing to go to war for the sheer pleasure of killing someone you may or may not like. I can respect those who actually know the difference.

  3. 0
    DanHoyt says:

    Yeah, but nobody ever talks about how they are intending to kill bad guys. They are trying to kill bad guys. Sometimes there is collateral damage and friendly fire, but that is never the intention.

  4. 0
    E. Zachary Knight says:

    "OK, they are bad guys we are killing, but they are still human beings."

    Not to be too political, but that statement is often debatable. Especially when you consider collateral damage. Just like any aspect of war and killing, innocent people get caught in the crossfire and sometimes innocent people are targeted by mistake.

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  5. 0
    Neeneko says:

    Heh.  The problem is, what does it mean to be 'like a video game'.

    Sounds like the two pieces started with a somewhat different assumed answer.

    Now what I would find interesting is what kind of UI differences one has between a serious application like piloting a drone and a consumer video game equivalent.  Since the drone designers do not need to worry about challenge or balance there are all sorts of things they could do that entertainment designers could not… conversely the world knowledge is different (even from serious sims) which would change the equation even further.

  6. 0
    Hevach says:

    True, but the point stands. The Air Force is the one with the "It's not science fiction" commercials, where they fly a drone by a motion control interface, move a satellite into a new orbit with a joystick, then the four engine airplane morphs Transformers style from a white medical plane to a black combat plane while making a vertical takeoff.

    Army and Marines recruitment commercials are more about personal strength and achievement, but the Air Force and to some extent the Navy ones are all about the tech, and they really do go out of their way to make the whole thing look like a video game.

  7. 0
    Bennett Beeny says:

    Maybe if they had a better record of killing the right targets, they would be thought of more respectfully by the general public. When they keep blowing up goatherds, it makes it hard to take them seriously.

    Besides, don't the US Army's recruiting ads kinda reinforce the idea that drone piloting is like a video game? I seem to recall an ad that portrayed it that way.

    Maybe the British Army's drone pilots are serious professionals. But I wonder about the American variety.

  8. 0
    Bennett Beeny says:

    When the wrong people are getting killed, good intentions tend not to matter too much. If some idiot blew up my daughter, I don't give a flying fuck whether he meant well. He blew up my daughter!

  9. 0
    DanHoyt says:

    I know why we have that misconception, because other news sites have reported the similarities between playing a video game and flying a drone. In fact I remember hearing about someone who was basically moved from some support role like loading trucks to flying drones, because he was awesome at it. I think there this is a misconception that gamers eat cheetos, drink Mountain Dew and are immature. I don't like Cheetos, but I am drinking Mountain Dew…

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