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NEWS | July 17, 2018

Air Force pros gather for Remotely Piloted Aircraft Training Summit

By Capt. Jose Davis Air Education and Training Command Public Affairs

Air Education and Training Command officials sponsored the first Remotely Piloted Aircraft Training Summit July 10-12, at the 558th Flying Training Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph. The event brought together professionals from throughout the RPA community across the Air Force. 

The summit was led by four different program managers representing graduate and undergraduate RPA training systems and programs and all scheduled events focused on collaboration, insights, discussions and developing solutions.   

“This summit is a great opportunity for stakeholders from across the RPA enterprise to come together and explore innovative ways to improve our training,” said Lt. Col. Jason Green, chief of graduate MQ-9 training at AETC and lead organizer of the summit. “RPA pilots and sensor operators will always be in demand, so we must continue to evaluate how we train and produce these professionals.


“The RPA community continues to operate at a breakneck pace with an ever increasing training demand,” he continued.” “As the community attempts to build dwell capacity for the first time since its inception, we hope the ideas and solutions that circulate in this summit will alleviate stress in the production pipeline and provide great new training capabilities to instructors.” 

Presentations included experts from the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center and AETC’s Pilot Training Next, who all shared their best practices and recommendations in application to the RPA enterprise. 

Lt. Col. Robert Vicars, PTN initiative director, shared at the summit how the future in training is virtual and augmented reality – a big focus at PTN. Undergraduate and graduate RPA Training officials are also looking at how to incorporate virtual reality, augmented reality, interactive multimedia and high-fidelity part task trainers as supplementary tools into their curriculum. 

“We need a ‘family’ of ground-based training systems to give instructors more training options,” Green said.

Discussions at the summit revolved around technology and how it can increase production of RPA pilots and sensor operators.

AETC announced efforts to double the RPA ranks with the start of the first 24-person class at the 558th FTS in 2016. The larger class size was part of ongoing initiatives announced by Air Force officials in 2015 to increase the number of career RPA pilots across the Air Force.  

Members of the 558 FTS have enacted several of those initiatives to bolster the RPA ranks, from taking on new simulators to bringing in more instructors.

Additionally, Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico’s MQ-9 Formal Training Unit, the largest in the Air Force, is slated to realign under AETC later this year as part of the overall effort to improve RPA training as a whole.

“Things are changing at a rapid pace,” said Brig. Gen. William Spangenthal, director of AETC’s A3/6 directorate during his presentation at the summit. “But are we changing at a pace to keep up? More importantly, are we providing the training and experiences for our Airmen to be successful in this dynamic, future environment? In the future, we want to be more agile and learner-centered.”

The summit concluded with stakeholders coming together and taking items for action.