‘For the Pentagon, drones are cheaper to buy and to operate than regular fighter jets. An armed MQ-9 Reaper drone runs about $14 million, compared to $180 million or more for an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. But unlike barrel-rolling a jet, the business of actually operating a unmanned aerial vehicle, UAV, for the military is lonely, thankless, and incredibly difficult.
It’s no wonder the Pentagon doesn’t have enough drone pilots to meet its needs, a problem certain to persist as the military increases its reliance on unmanned systems, especially in areas where it has no interest in putting boots on the ground, like Pakistan or Iraq. The solution that the military is exploring: increasing the level of autonomy in UAVs to allow one pilot to manage several drones at once.’