Redstone Report: First unmanned aircraft operator reflects on career

There are several unmanned aircraft that the Army uses today.
There are several unmanned aircraft that the Army uses today.

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - 2 million flight hours have been logged on the Army's Unmanned Aircraft Systems. Back in 1986, Mark Farrar was one of the first operators.

"There were non-commissioned officers selected out of the Army to up the aircraft training center and I was one of those people," Farrar remembered. "In the morning, we would do classroom training, and in the afternoon, we would go out with Styrofoam airplanes that used to be targets for the air defense folks that we'd modified to try and figure out how to fly."

There are several unmanned aircraft that the Army uses today, but things started out a little different 28 years ago. "Well, the first system we actually flew, we borrowed from the applied physics laboratory at John Hopkins University," Farrar said.

These days, Farrar is the Director of the Army's unmanned aircraft training center at Ft. Huachuca in Arizona.

Of the training center, Farrar said, "We teach any one of the four platforms that the army has, to mission commanders course, the warrant officers course, 15 whiskey, which is the unmanned aircraft operator, as well as the 15 echo, which is the unmanned aircraft repairer."

Being one of the first operators meant a lot of trial and error. "We crashed a lot of airplanes," Farrar said. "We actually packed Glad trash bags inside the airplanes so that when, not if, we crashed the airplane, when we got out to the crash site, we could get out and throw the remnants in the bag."

In the end, Farrar has continued to stick by the system that he knows is the future. "I do believe in this system," said Farrar. "I do believe it is the way of the future."

Copyright 2014 WAFF. All rights reserved.