Feeds

Predator kill-machine pilots suffering 'chronic burnout'

Vegas-based droid jockeys asleep at the stick

Reducing security risks from open source software

A US military report says pilots operating the well-known Predator drone aircraft suffer far higher levels of mental stress than flyboys who are physically present aboard their planes.

Staff Sergeant Lance Nettrouer puts foot to ass for his country

Too much time staring at a screen, controller

in hand, can impair domestic relationships.

According to the report's authors, a group of US officers, "crewmembers in a MQ-1 Predator unmanned aircraft system (UAS) squadron had significantly increased fatigue, emotional exhaustion, and burnout relative to traditional aircrew". The study allowed for the present very high level of demand for Predator flights by comparing the drone operators against similarly hard-worked aircrews aboard AWACS airborne radar planes.

The revelation that safe, remote drone operations seem to tire pilots and sensor-operators out faster than being airborne above warzones comes in the snappily-titled A Resurvey of Shift Work-Related Fatigue in MQ-1 Predator Unmanned Aircraft System Crewmembers (pdf), flagged up at Flight International's DEW Line blog.

The authors say changes to shift patterns worked by the drone jockeys haven't really helped: their work is just extra tiring and stressful compared to flying airborne missions.

According to the report, survey results "indicated a pervasive problem with chronic fatigue... Nearly 50 per cent of surveyed crewmembers met the diagnostic threshold for levels of daily sleepiness which can be expected to adversely impact job performance and safety".

Worrying stuff, when speaking of people handling deadly aerial kill machines packing smart bombs and laser-guided Hellfire missiles. It seemed that the weary remote-control warriors even suffered "impaired domestic relationships".

Of course, there could be other factors in play here. Predator pilots in the US air force have typically been reassigned from normal airborne flight duties, and given the ordinary military flyboy mindset* this probably isn't seen as a step up. The droneboys may be suffering from sleepiness on the job, burnout, failed relationships, etc, because their macho self-image has been destroyed. Conceivably, the real fighter pilots taunt them, snap towels in the locker room, etc.

Alternatively, some might point out the location from which the Predator is handled during missions: Nellis Air Force Base. Which is right next to Las Vegas, a place long known for disrupted sleep patterns, burnout, and impaired domestic relationships. ®

*Perhaps most succinctly expressed by the old saying: "If you don't know who the greatest fighter pilot in the world is ... it isn't you".

Maximizing your infrastructure through virtualization

More from The Register

next story
Yorkshire cops fail to grasp principle behind BT Fon Wi-Fi network
'Prevent people that are passing by to hook up to your network', pleads plod
Major problems beset UK ISP filth filters: But it's OK, nobody uses them
It's almost as though pr0n was actually rather popular
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
HP, Microsoft prove it again: Big Business doesn't create jobs
SMEs get lip service - what they need is dinner at the Club
ITC: Seagate and LSI can infringe Realtek patents because Realtek isn't in the US
Land of the (get off scot) free, when it's a foreign owner
MPs wave through Blighty's 'EMERGENCY' surveillance laws
Only 49 politcos voted against DRIP bill
EU's top data cops to meet Google, Microsoft et al over 'right to be forgotten'
Plan to hammer out 'coherent' guidelines. Good luck chaps!
prev story

Whitepapers

Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.