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UAV Pilot


Unmanned aerial vehicle pilots or UAV pilots are among the CBP’s elite. They are a rare breed of highly-trained professionals operating the CBP’s Predator-B Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). The UAS, of which the CBP has fleet of 8, is one of the new technologies utilized by the CBP to prevent the unauthorized entry of terrorists and undocumented aliens. Two pilots are required to operate the Predator-B and which are based in Florida, Texas, Arizona, and North Dakota. The CBP seeks to add more to their existing fleet.

There are many reasons why UAV pilots are highly-valued by the CBP. First is the fact that these pilots help maximize the use of limited national resources. Now, the CBP does not have to put up surveillance systems in the long border stretches it secures. Rather, they minimize cost through the use of the Predator-B while delivering the same level or even exceeding their present performance. These aircrafts can also go on clandestine missions and get a closer look at terrorist or criminal bases to monitor their activities.

One of the perks of being a pilot of a UAV is that you get to do your job without having to put yourself or your co-pilot in danger. You even get to fly your plane to locations abroad and gather critical intelligence but you rest in the knowledge that the chances of getting physically hurt or even taken as a prisoner is nonexistent.

As a UAV Pilot, you get to monitor large areas of land, sea and airspace; detect and track unauthorized vehicles, ships, aircraft or personnel until law enforcement personnel are able to interdict; and recognize threats to national security and public safety, and activate defense protocols that neutralize them. You get the chance to operate sophisticated surveillance and detection equipment while coordinating with CBP and other federal personnel during an interdiction operation. You do not only get intelligence about terrorist or criminal activity localized to the U.S. borders, you also liaise with foreign governments, police agencies and personnel about activity occurring on their territory. You also monitor the situational disposition of hostile individuals as CBP personnel move to engage.

So what does it take to become a UAV Pilot with the CBP? The basic qualifications include U.S. Citizenship; passing an intensive security check and polygraph test as well as ongoing drug tests; and meeting the age qualifications. Applicants must be under 40 years of age at the time of appointment (although this may be waived for military veterans and other experienced professionals).

All applicants must also have a valid FAA Commercial Pilots license and meet the flight time requirements. Thus, you should have at least 1,500 hours of flight time (but this may be reduced to half in some cases); have at least 250 hours as a Pilot-in-Command; have 75 hours of night time flying experience; and have 100 hours of flight time in the last year. Of course, applicants must also possess a UAV Predator B (or Predator A) piloting license to be considered.

Since the Predator-B and similar UAVs are expensive equipment, the CBP would prefer applicants who have obtained post-secondary education (bachelor’s or higher) as this would mean that they have the intellectual capacity to handle such equipment. Ideally, applying for a UAS: Special Airworthiness Certificates – Experimental Category (SAC-EC) for civil aircraft, or Certificates of Waiver or Authorization (COA) with the Federal Aviation Administration is the best way to gain piloting experience with unmanned aerial vehicles. If you do not have this academic credentials but have acquired extensive experience flying UAVs in the military or other law enforcement agencies then that you can also use that to qualify.  In the event that you pass the paper application process, you will still need to be interviewed by the CBP hiring personnel. The final step before you can be a full-fledged UAV Pilot is to show that you can operate a UAV Predator B at the CBP training facility located in Oklahoma City.

You can only apply to become a UAV Pilot if the CBP announces a job opening. This will be posted in the official portal for federal government jobs USAJOBS. You need to create an account so you can save your resume and apply online. If you would like to check your eligibility then click the map above.

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