Drone operators are in a unique position on the battlefield. They're not physically present, but the UAVs they control are. Anyone who's seen combat knows the type of chatter that comes with a firefight, but few know the unique, frustrated grunts of drone operators. Thanks to the Washington Post and a few captured lines from ground control station audio recordings, now we get the chance.
Most of the quotes are a little humorous, but they also reflect the eerie nature of being a drone pilot. Because they aren’t in the immediate presence of the hardware they control, their experiences can be surreal and strangely disassociated. The lines might make you giggle, but they’re also a reminder of how little control a drone pilot can have over their vehicle. Friendly fire can happen even among forces that are physically present, but drone pilots appear to be uniquely prone to being in the dark about what the drone is doing.
Regardless, it’s important to remember that no matter how estranged the pilot is from the drone, they can experience a very real emotional roller coaster when accidents happen.
We’ve pulled a few choice quotes below, and you can check out the full list here.
Drone just pitched up. Drone's pitching over. Drone is uh, crashed and destructed, at uh, the end of the runway.Unidentified pilot of a chase plane that was following a QF-4E target drone before it crashed at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida on July 17, 2013.
Stop saying 'uh-oh' while you're flying. It's never good. Like going to the dentist or a doctor. . . . 'Oops? What the f— you mean 'Oops?'Unidentified camera operator, to a habitually nervous Predator pilot right before takeoff at Jalalabad Air Base on July 24, 2012.
Whoa. . . . I don't know what the hell just happened.The same nervous Predator pilot, moments later, after the drone crashed.
I couldn't tell which way it was turning, or if it was straight, if it was upside down, or if it was right-side up. . . . I couldn't grasp what was happening with the aircraft. And he said he thought it was upside down.Unidentified Predator pilot to investigators trying to determine how and why she flew the drone upside down before it crashed near Kandahar Air Base on Jan. 15, 2010.
Um, I guess I'll just be blunt and say not well.The Predator pilot who flew upside down, when asked by investigators how well her training had prepared her for such an incident.
As the plane was going down, all I saw were tents and I was afraid that I had killed someone. I felt numb and I am certain that a few cuss words came out of my mouth.Maj. Richard Wageman to Air Force investigators examining the crash of a Predator at Kandahar Air Base on Nov. 2, 2008.