One major improvement could reduce a currently two-person Reaper flight crew by half on most missions, says Lt Gen Robert Otto, the air force’s deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR).
“There are certainly missions today that could be done by one woman or one man managing both the aircraft and the sensors if we architected the ground station to support it,” Otto says.
Such a change could significantly reduce the air force’s manpower problem. The USAF now operates 60 continuous surveillance orbits with the MQ-9 and MQ-1 Predator, which requires a cadre of about 1,000 pilots and 1,000 sensor operators.
You know what else would significantly reduce the Air Force's self-inflicted manpower problem? Let enlisted personnel fly drones.
But no, that would interfere with the whole "officer and gentlemen" aura about pilots.
Very tired and stressed out officers and gentlemen, to be sure. But one must maintain one's standards to keep out the riffraff, mustn't one?
Maybe if we were at war, attitudes would change. But what are the odds of that happening?