The UK Royal Air Force has completed a trial programme intended to assess the ability of non-pilots to fly unmanned air vehicles.
Dubbed Daedalus, the process "has successfully demonstrated that selection and training can generate remote pilots who, despite undergoing a different sort of training, are as highly trained and equally skilled as traditional pilots in that field", the RAF says.
The effort was intended to study the possibility of using candidates with no previous flying experience as a means of addressing any future shortfall in the availability of pilots for the UK's remotely piloted air systems (RPAS).
"The aim of the trial is to build a sustainable core of RPAS pilots, from non-airborne specialisations, which would increase the pool of pilots to fly these state-of-the-art aircraft," the air force says. "The results of the project will determine the qualities required for future RPAS pilots."
The RAF had originally hoped that the graduates of its programme would be able to operate its General Atomics MQ-9 Reapers, a type now in use over Afghanistan. However, the US Air Force, which supported the final phases of their training at Creech AFB, Nevada, has restricted their crew approvals to working only with its smaller MQ-1 Predator (below).
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"Now that the trial has come to a close, the four of us are looking forward to being able to contribute directly to current operations," says one of the group. Identified as Flt Lt Dale, his previous position was as a provost officer with the RAF Police.
"Trial Daedalus clearly owes its success to the tremendous flexibility and sheer determination of all who have been involved," says course co-ordinator Sqn Ldr Tony Sumner. "Their journey has been unique and has required no small amount of hard work."