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We frequently talk about drones and drone operators at our company (as they are part of our user base) — why do they wear flight suits, do they get combat pay if they are flying a drone over Syria while sitting in an operations center in San Diego, etc.
Anyway, this is an interesting article that I wanted to bookmark here to discuss with some of my colleagues as well. Via the NY Times:
Nearly half the operators of drone aircraft have high levels of job-related stress, mostly linked to long and erratic work hours because of a tremendous increase in the use of the aircraft, the Air Force said in a new study. In a survey of nearly 1,500 Air Force members, including 840 operators of Predator, Reaper and Global Hawk drones, the Air Force found that 46 percent of Reaper and Predator pilots and 48 percent of Global Hawk sensor operators reported what the Air Force termed “high operational stress.” It did not specifically define high operational stress but said operators were judged to have it if they rated their stress levels as 8 or above on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 representing the most stress.
A smaller but still significant number — including a quarter of Global Hawk sensor operators — had what the Air Force called “clinical distress,” which was defined as anxiety, depression or stress severe enough to affect an operator’s job performance or family life.
The Air Force has long known anecdotally of the job pressures on drone pilots, who use joysticks and computer screens to fly their aircraft, most typically over Afghanistan, from bases in the United States. But the study, conducted by the Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, was the first to try to quantify the strains.
The operators in the study were divided into three groups of people who work hand in hand: Pilots who remotely fly the drones, sensor operators who control the cameras that bring the battlefield into view and mission intelligence coordinators who communicate with troops on the ground. There was also a difference among the drones in the study: Predators and Reapers are armed, and Global Hawks are not.
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