Skip to content

(from SpiegelOnline) ‘ Dreams in Infrared: The Woes of an American Drone Operator’


With seven seconds left to go, there was no one to be seen on the ground. Bryant could still have diverted the missile at that point. Then it was down to three seconds. Bryant felt as if he had to count each individual pixel on the monitor. Suddenly a child walked around the corner, he says.

Second zero was the moment in which Bryant’s digital world collided with the real one in a village between Baghlan and Mazar-e-Sharif.

Bryant saw a flash on the screen: the explosion. Parts of the building collapsed. The child had disappeared. Bryant had a sick feeling in his stomach.

“Did we just kill a kid?” he asked the man sitting next to him.

“Yeah, I guess that was a kid,” the pilot replied.

“Was that a kid?” they wrote into a chat window on the monitor.

Then, someone they didn’t know answered, someone sitting in a military command center somewhere in the world who had observed their attack. “No. That was a dog,” the person wrote.

They reviewed the scene on video. A dog on two legs?

to read the entire article click the image below:

Posted in Uncategorized.

One Response

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

  1. Steven said

    Former Senior Airman Brandon Bryant was a co-worker of mine. While this article does address a couple of legitimate problems in the RPA community, to an informed individual it reads as nearly entirely embellished nonsense. To point out a few:

    First, Brandon Bryant was never a pilot. To pilot a Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA), in his case the MQ-1, you must be a Commissioned Aeronautical Officer. Brandon Bryant was a Sensor Operator (SO), responsible for controlling the multispectral camera colloquially referred to as the “ball”. This is not the same thing as a pilot; it is nowhere near the same thing as a co-pilot. They are two entirely different career fields, with different roles and responsibilities. As a matter of fact, it would literally be illegal for Bryant to sit in the pilot’s seat to perform his duties.

    Second, while the Ground Control Station (GCS) is kept cool for the many computers contained within, it is not 17C. The only time I can think of the temperature getting that low was when we had a blizzard, and they couldn’t keep the GCS warm. During this time, people had to wear their issued cold-weather gear. While not ideal, it is also not the norm.

    Third, regarding the 6,000 combat hours… I don’t understand how someone working twelve hour shifts, five days a week, could accrue ONLY 6,000 hours in 6 years without actively seeking reasons and ways to not fly. In my first year in the same unit, I accrued over 3,000 combat hours. If he was only getting 1,000 combat hours per year (1/3 of what his peers were working), it’s likely that he was being shunned for what the RPA community calls “tactical DNIF”.

    DNIF stands for “Duties Not to Include Flying”, and prevents an aircrew member from having to perform combat flying missions. “Tactical DNIF” and was used by the same select few individuals feigning or exaggerating illness so that they did not have to work the same schedule as everyone else.

    Fourth, I lived in this “bungalow” that the article describes. It is a two bedroom duplex, with two bathrooms, and two living rooms. It has a backdoor patio, and a one-car garage. Granted, it was $650 per month; but that’s WAY less than the average $1200 comparable houses in the area cost. My wife and I took over the lease from Bryant’s roommate when he separated from the Air Force. The house was a disaster. There were dead bugs everywhere, the chandelier was broken, blinds were torn off the windows… my wife and I fixed a lot of these issues out of pocket. After confronting the previous tenant about the situation, we came to find out that Bryant and some friends deliberately trashed the house to “screw over” his roommate before he left.

    Fifth, “I dream in IR” was a common joke-complaint about the working conditions. It refers to the fact that the IR camera in an MQ-1 provides a higher image fidelity than the camera for the visible spectrum. The joke was that people were spending so much of their time at work, and therefore also looking at the world through an Infrared camera, that they were forgetting what the world looked like in color. This statement was never intended to be used in a serious sense; but it seems more than a little fishy that it was being used in this context as a literal statement.

    Sixth, there was a story that got passed around the squadron in which Bryant and I worked. In this story, a Sensor Operator had been trying to shift their schedule so that they could adjust between night shift and day shift more easily. In order to achieve this, the SO decided to sleep in 4 hour “power naps” instead of for eight hour periods. As a result of the individual’s sleep deprivation, he allegedly began vomiting and defecating blood. At work, he went to the restroom, and came back to the Flight Operations Supervisor (FOS), presenting toilet paper covered in feces and blood in order to request the day off. After visiting the hospital, he was allegedly ordered not to return to work until he RESUMED sleeping in 8 hour periods.

    All in all, it really just reads like Bryant got out of the Air Force without considering a job opportunity; moved back in with his Mother; played a lot of World of Warcraft (hence his computer is the only thing he owns); and is now looking to get cash. Funny thing is, most of his co-workers remember him for fishing his blood-covered stool out of the toilet to get out of work… nobody seems to have anything to say about his job performance.

Some HTML is OK


(required, but never shared)

or, reply to this post via trackback.