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Air Force Drone Drivers Can Cash in with $35,000 Bonus

Actors portray U.S. Air Force drone pilots in the 2014 film "Good Kill." (Courtesy Voltage Pictures)
Actors portray U.S. Air Force drone pilots in the 2014 film "Good Kill." (Courtesy Voltage Pictures)

Drone drivers can cash in with a new Air Force bonus program with bonuses of $35,000 per year.

The annual bonuses will go to drone pilots who have completed their first tour at the controls and sign up for another tour. The Air Force has struggled for years to get enough pilots to fly its growing fleet of drones, called remotely piloted aircraft, or RPAs in, Pentagon lingo.

"The Air Force recognizes the important contribution RPA pilots make every day, and retaining these valued aviators to execute our current operations and shape the future is critical," Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David. Goldfein said in a statement released Thursday. "While we applaud this effort, we recognize we have similar challenges across our entire pilot force, and we'd like the opportunity to offer higher retention bonuses for all our pilots."

The new bonus is $10,000 bigger than an earlier incentive offered to drone pilots. Pilots who took the smaller bonus will be eligible for the bigger payday if they agree to an extra year on duty, the Air Force said.

Full details on the bonus program are expected soon.

With a shortage of pilots in the civilian world, the Air Force has struggled to keep people in uniform.

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James released a statement saying the service is working to become a more attractive employer for all its airmen.

"As you've heard me say repeatedly, quality of life, quality of the work environment; these are also important factors," she said. "To that end, we will soon announce ways we will reduce assigned additional duties to give airmen some of their precious time back." 

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