Feeds

Predator kill-machine pilots suffering 'chronic burnout'

Vegas-based droid jockeys asleep at the stick

Build a business case: developing custom apps

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".

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Adam Afriyie MP: Smart meters are NOT so smart
Mega-costly gas 'n' 'leccy totting-up tech not worth it - Tory MP
'Blow it up': Plods pop round for chat with Commonwealth Games tweeter
You'd better not be talking about the council's housing plans
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
ONE EMAIL costs mining company $300 MEEELION
Environmental activist walks free after hoax sent share price over a cliff
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
Apple smacked with privacy sueball over Location Services
Class action launched on behalf of 100 million iPhone owners
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
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.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.