Judging by the results of a new analyze, future drone pilots may come from an unconventional—if not terribly surprising—pool of candidates: video sport gamers.

The proliferation of UAVs in military services and civilian functions has made a developing need for experienced drone pilots. Facing a scarcity of skilled operators, the U.S. Air Force has started instruction enlisted airmen to fly drones like the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-nine Reaper. Air Force UAV pilots no for a longer time have to be pilots who very first skilled to fly fighters or other conventional plane. In point, the debate still rages more than just how a lot common piloting skill drone operators want.

The answer may be “not a lot.”

Forensic psychologist Jacqueline Wheatcroft at the College of Liverpool’s Institute for Psychology, Wellness & Culture teamed up with pilot and aerospace engineer Mike Soar, also at Liverpool, to exam video gamers as UAV pilots. Their report, revealed in the journal Cogent Psychology, compared sport gamers who had flight simulation working experience with typical aviation pilots and skilled pilots from airlines and the military services. As a regulate, a fourth group consisted of non-pilots with no video sport working experience.

“We calculated the identity constructs these types of as how conscientious they were being, how agreeable they were being, how open to ordeals they were being, their neuroticism, extraversion and so on,” suggests Wheatcroft. “What these convey to us is how they are going to react in presented situations.”        

Drawing on similarities between UAV floor stations and gaming application, Soar made a simulated UAV employing Microsoft FSX as the exhibit engine. The simulated plane was comparable in dimensions and general performance to compact, fixed-wing plane utilised to educate typical aviation pilots in the true earth. The scientists then viewed how the 4 groups done all through numerous phases of flight, commencing with taxiing and proceeding by landing.

All through each and every period, the pilots were being subjected to a few situations where they had to make a choice involving numerous levels of danger and chance. In all situations, the pilots could rely on automated flight methods, or they could fly the plane manually.

Professional pilots had the cheapest, or finest, scores on just one of the essential identity elements, neuroticism. States Wheatcroft, “If you have a really reduced neuroticism rating, then you are a lot much more able to deal with situations” that are stress filled. In this classification gamers outscored typical aviation pilots, and scored almost as well as the pros. 

When questioned how gamers could do so well taking into consideration they had never ever expert the type of anxiety that generally accompanies actual flight, Wheatcroft mentioned that may operate in their favor, considering that thoughts sometimes get in the way of superior choice earning.

She stresses that her research isn’t conclusive in favor of gamers earning superior drone pilots. “There’s not plenty of research for us to be self-confident about the results of employing specific skill sets and so on. We have set our toe into the drinking water with this. All we’re declaring is that [gamers] could have a superior skill established for this endeavor.”

Unrelated experiments have proposed that taking part in video games could possibly have other gains. Video clip gamers seemingly make for much better surgeons, in accordance to a 2007 analyze, and research reveals that they are inclined to have much better hand-eye coordination than the non-gaming populace. 

John Fields is a UAV instructor who manages instruction and flight functions. His observations mainly aid Wheatcroft’s operate. “I feel a great deal of the expertise that video gamers have in hand-eye coordination, the means to multitask and that sort of stuff carry by to traveling un[pilot]ed plane systems” in particular in the scaled-down UAVs, he suggests.

Referring to the electro-optical sensor methods aboard the plane at his college, Fields suggests video gamers “typically do a great deal better” at controlling plane sensors mainly because of their hand-eye coordination expertise. People methods are guided by a Sony Playstation-sort controller.

“I feel the bigger methods is where your [conventional] pilot is much better at operation,” suggests Fields, “just mainly because they recognize all the other aspects” of traveling a typical aviation sort-plane.

Wheatcroft and Soar are planning more research on video gamers and drones. Given Fields’ observations, it may be a wealthy discipline for analyze.

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