Parting UAV Shot

In his exit interview Monday, John Young was critical of the Air Force for, in his view, not moving more quickly to incorporate an automated landing capability for its MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicles, as the Army has done with its larger class UAVs. In fact, Young attributed the much higher rate of Air Force UAV losses to this lack, Stars and Stripes reported yesterday. “The Air Force built a budget that didn’t include putting auto-land capability in their Predators, despite the fact that we’ve lost a third of the Predators we’ve ever bought, and a significant fraction of the losses are attributable either to the ground control station or the pilot’s operation of that ground control station, or the pilot’s operation of the vehicle,” Young said. Adding the auto-land feature as well as other improvements in Predator ground stations are expected to decrease Predator attrition by 25 percent, he said. According to Colin Clark’s DOD Buzz blog, a Pentagon spokesman later clarified Young’s data, saying of the 36 percent of Predator accidents produced by human error, “many of those [are] attributable to ground station problems.” The spokesman said they did not have data for comparison with the Army UAV program. Ahem.