December 8, 2009: Operators of UAVs are finding that it's not their flying skills that matter most, but rather their ability to correctly interpret what is going on in the videos the aircraft is delivering. Interpreting such images used to be the province of trained specialists. While there are still image interpretation specialists scrutinizing UAV video, most of the interpretation is done by troops operating five pound RQ-11 Raven UAVs.
While it takes only a few hours training to learn how to fly a Raven, the operator never stops learning how to interpret the images. Actually, a few dozen hours at the controls gives operators the basics, especially if they have an experienced Raven driver there for a bit to give pointers on how to sort out who is doing what on the small screen. After a hundred hours staring at that videos, you become really good. Some officers and NCOs, who often have to look over the operators shoulder to double check the image before, say, a troop movement is made or a smart bomb attack called for, also become pretty expert at sorting out the fuzzy images on a display not much larger than you find on an iPhone.