The First Drone Test Pilot

The US military has appointed its first drone test pilot, Captain Nicholas Helms, at the prestigious USAF test pilot school at Edwards Air Force Base in California.  His tasks include figuring out how to reduce the number of crashes by UAVs in Afghanistan:

[U]nmanned aerial vehicles were pushed into service quickly in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and commanders believe they could benefit from more rigorous testing.

Capt Helms’ job will be to “push the envelope” and accurately establish the limits of their performance, which will be passed on to drone pilots operating them in the field.

Last week the first test of a new generation of “stealth drone” was carried out at Edwards. The unmanned, jet-powered X-47B, a smaller version of a B2 stealth bomber, can reach speeds of more than 500mph at 40,000ft and will be virtually invisible to radar.

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