Do gamers make for perfect drone pilots?

Airman 1st Class Caleb Force assists 1st Lt. Jorden Smith, a MQ-1B Predator pilot, in locating simulated targets during a training mission (image: U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Nadine Y. Barclay)The annual revenues for the video games industry is billions of dollars each year, surpassing that generated by Hollywood. With that comes millions of gamers who assume the roles of various characters – from Tier-1 soldiers, firefighters and doctors, to farmers and professional drivers.

There is one group of gamers that has received a bit more attention – the US Air Force: first-person shooter players.

A recent study by Associate Professor Missy Cummings at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology suggested that video game players make for ideal pilots of armed UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), or drones, because players have the right skill sets to conduct operations of high concentration for prolonged periods of time.

The US Air Force is facing a shortage of drone pilots. The resignation rate is reportedly three times higher in that sector than any other branch of the military due to stress and boredom – and as a result, the USAF is actively recruiting video game players to fill the positions.

“The military is filling the acute need for drone pilots by finding recruits with many hours of video game playing under their belts, giving them basic flight training and putting them into the virtual cockpit,” wrote GCN’s John Breeden.

Breeden added that when he visited a simulation conference in Orlando, Florida, he was introduced to new control schemes for the drones and that one such system even made use of a PlayStation 2 controller.

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