Impact of Prior Flight Experience on Learning Predator UAV Operator Skills
Final rept. Aug 1998-December 2001
AIR FORCE RESEARCH LAB MESA AZ HUMAN EFFECTIVENESS DIRECTORATE
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Unmanneduninhabited aerial vehicles UAVs are an increasingly important part of military operations throughout the world. However there is no consensus about who should fly these aircraft. A United States Air Force USAF Corona South four-star general officer summit in 1997 resulted in tasking the Air Force Research Laboratory to conduct a study to compare the speed and accuracy with which various groups of pilots could learn to fly the RQ-1A Predator UAV. This study primarily addressed stick-and-rudder skills we did not measure such operationally relevant factors as communication skills, command experience, and knowledge of combat operations. Seven groups of military and civilian pilots, varying in amount and kind of flying experience, completed a series of multimedia tutorials on principles of flight and procedures for operating the Predator, then flew a high-fidelity RQ-1A simulator. Each participant flew basic maneuvers and landings including difficult crosswind landings until a very high standard of aircraft control performance was achieved, then flew 30 reconnaissance scenarios. During this time, detailed measures of performance were continuously and automatically recorded. The results show that, though Predator pilots performed best and nonpilots performed worst, Air Force T-38 graduates and civilian pilots with single-engine instrument training performed nearly as well as a group of highly experienced military pilots assigned but not yet trained to fly Predator. A possible explanation for the relatively good performance of the T-38 and civilian instrument pilots is that there may be advantages to recent experience flying aircraft that have handling characteristics that are similar to the Predator.
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