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Holloman AFB drones

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POSTED: Thursday, June 12, 2014 - 10:59pm

UPDATED: Friday, June 13, 2014 - 11:34am

 You might not see them – but whether you realize it or not drones are flying high above us every day here in the Borderland.

 Holloman Air Force Base is the United States largest training school for students to learn how to fly a remotely piloted aircraft, or a drone as they are commonly called. 

On a tour of the base Thursday, News Channel 9 was shown exactly how they train future pilots to take the skills they learn at Holloman and apply them in real world situations.

It’s the wave of the future for the U.S. Military.

Every year at  Holloman Air Force Base,  more than 700 pilots are trained on how to operate an RPA.

At any given time there are close to 250 trainees going through the program.

The first step is simulator training.

“The imagery is very similar, granted this is a digitized version. But the realism it provides us translates very well into the actual aircraft,” said Maj. Lamont.

Even though what is happening here isn’t real, the instructors make it clear to their trainees in order to excel they have to learn here first.

Dennis: “Because if you think you are in a sim and things don’t matter then that is how you perform.,” said Maj. Dennis. “But as a student you want to walk into this building and that is why we strive to make it as real as possible.”

They train as either RPA pilots or sensor operators, who control the planes' cameras.

“The pilot puts the plan where it needs to be. The sensor operator puts the camera where we are watching,” said Dennis.

Once they finish their training in the simulators, they get to practice on the real thing.

Meet the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper.

“They both have that large sensor in the front that is used to gather primarily video intelligence that we can relay to the guys on the ground. They are designed to be the eyes in the sky,” said Maj. Sean.

The MQ-1 is smaller and used for longer missions, but can’t carry as much equipment. The MQ-9 is used for short missions where more equipment is needed.

While the ground control systems might not look like much from the outside, inside is a number technology that allows pilots and sensor operators to control the drones here at Holloman. They are ground cockpits.

While no real missions take place at Holloman, officials said the simulators and practice drones give the pilots in training the skills they need to successfully complete their missions.

“When they go and walk out this door, they need to understand that their actions have actual repercussions,” said Dennis. “They are flying a combat weapon system. And they need to understand that their actions have actual repercussions.”

Base officials said Holloman is the ideal training facility bases of the airspace and weather.

They use the entire White Sands Missile Range airspace, which does include Fort Bliss.

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