American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
The Development of a Hands-on
Unmanned Aerial Vehicle/Remotely Piloted Vehicle
John L. Minor
and Russell G. Adelgren
USAF Test Pilot School, Edwards AFB, CA 93524 USA
David P. Warner
and Jason C. Doster
Flight Test Squadron, Edwards AFB, CA 93523 USA
The United States Air Force (UASF) Test Pilot School, the Engineering Directorate, and the
452nd Flight Test Squadron all within the 412
Test Wing of the Air Force Flight Test
Center, Edwards Air Force Base, have teamed together to develop an Unmanned Aerial
Vehicle (UAV) flight test training course.
This paper briefly describes the development of
the course and presents the major elements of the course.
HE outstanding performance of U.S. UAVs in recent campaigns has been front line news all over the world.
Because of UAV successes, Pentagon officials expect to triple spending on unmanned aircraft over the next 7
years, using them to perform what it calls “dangerous, dirty and just plain dull missions.” Those tasks include
attacking enemy radar and missile sites, as well as conducting surveillance missions that last for many hours—
missions that human crews would find tedious. A Defense Department report released recently said the Pentagon
plans to invest $10 billion by the end of the decade in unmanned aircraft capable of a variety of combat missions,
increasing the total number of UAVs, under development and in operational use, significantly.
All of these new
UAVs will require flight test and evaluation to determine their mission readiness before being fielded to the
The Air Force Flight Test Center, while best known for its testing of manned aircraft such as the F-16
, and the X-35
Joint Strike Fighter
, also has a rich history and extensive experience testing
remotely piloted drones, cruise missiles, and UAVs. The test and evaluation of UAVs poses some unique technical
and safety challenges for fight testers. Over the years, AFFTC testers working on programs such as the Medium
Range UAV, the Darkstar, the Predator, the Global Hawk, and the X-45 have gained valuable UAV flight test
experience and have overcome many obstacles along the way.
Now, that wealth of valuable experience will be
shared with others in a formal UAV flight test and evaluation training course. The 412th Test Wing’s Engineering
Directorate, the USAF Test Pilot School, and the 452nd Flight Test Squadron are jointly developing a UAV flight
test course to meet the needs of testers who will be evaluating the performance of these new weapons systems.
While there are numerous other courses out there that teach the history of UAVs and the academics of UAV
technology, this course will be different by focusing on the flight testing aspects. In addition to offering academics
covering all aspects of UAV specifics and UAV-payload technology, students in this course will get hands-on