By Major (ret'd) Roy Thomas, MSC, CD
This statement was made by Michael Fagan, Chair of Unmanned Aircraft Systems, in front of the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs in 2010. It is now 2017! That many more drones are now flying every second around the globe. For in addition to military UAS, civilians are also flying recreational drones, some with extended capabilities. In fact, the wide use of drones in low altitude airspace has led organizations such as the Small UAV Coalition and NASA’s Unmanned Traffic Management group to help create rules and meet FAA regulations.
On the 150th anniversary of our Confederation, it is time that the cadet movement — army, navy and air force — introduce unmanned vehicle training, not only in operating drones but also in learning to control unmanned submersibles.
A major reason for having cadets learn to operate drones is “safety” — writ LARGE! Our youth need to be made aware of the need to share airspace when flying any form of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). No one wants to see a drone out the aircraft’s window as their flight is on final approach. Cadets are generally leaders among their peers. The knowledge that cadets learn about safely flying drones or robotic submersibles would circulate among their classmates, teammates or work colleagues, especially those with privately owned drones of their own.
The value of currently available off-the-shelf drones for emergency use has already been made evident in our media. The Halifax and Winnipeg fire departments have both submitted requests for drones that would give on-site fire commanders a top-down view of an ongoing fire. In 2016, a recreational drone user employed his UAV in a Renfrew County missing person search. From Africa’s East Coast, we learn that drones are transporting critical medicine to locations that cannot be reached quickly by any other affordable mode of transport. The list of emergency uses of simple, recreational drones is quite extensive. What better organization to provide emergency assistance than a cadet corps with its hierarchal leadership, respect for regulations and military style of discipline? Cadet drone operators would also have been exposed to the use of maps or charts, compass and GPS.
Our cash-strapped Canadian Armed Forces would benefit as well. Many cadets go on to serve in Regular or Reserve units of all three services. Having a reservoir of recruits familiar with drone operation, albeit of the short-range recreational varieties, would be a big plus. However, the biggest benefit to our Armed Forces, in yet another era of money shortages, would be that there would be wider appreciation among the voting public about the use of unmanned vehicles. After all, many cadets are of voting age or about to become eligible to vote! Cadets also have family members who can vote.
As a fisherman, I hope some cadet, operating some underwater submersible on training, captures an image of a monster muskie, complete with GPS coordinates and shares this information. To improve our safety, to assist in emergencies and to indirectly help our Forces, starting in 2017 cadets should be trained to operate unmanned vehicles — above, on and below the earth’s surface