Friday, May 22, 2015

ASCI 638 Case analysis as a decision making tool

As the last blog for ASCI 638, students are tasked with discussing the effectiveness of case analysis as a decision making tool. I believe case studies are applicable in a variety of settings and industries as educational tools and as aids to decision making in many but not all business or operational settings (Tellis, 1997). This is particularly true of op-immediate decisions where there is simply not the luxury of time available to conduct extensive analysis and decisions must be made based on experience, team member input, operational necessity, and the best available data at the time or any combination thereof.  This applies not only to military scenarios but to civilian scenarios as well.  Most everyone has experienced a situation where the boss wants something fixed, a situation handled, or change made “Now!”  However for situations where time permits, and particularly where
they may be precedence, a case analysis can provide insight that would otherwise be overlooked through other decision making processes. 
As part of my career in the US Navy I was a member of what is known as a Damage Control Training Team (DCTT).  A routine function of the team is to write and conduct training drills ranging from simple flood or fire scenarios to complex mass conflagration drills (USN, 1999).  It is poor form and a bad training technique to simply rehash old drills so team members are routinely expected to write new drills.  The fundamental process of writing a successful drill, particularly the more complex ones, starts with a case analysis of previous drills, both successful and unsuccessful.  This provides an opportunity to review what desired training was accomplished or failed to be accomplished, and most importantly what knowledge and skills were gained or failed to be gained by the participants.  In other words, what worked and what didn’t work.  From that point new scenarios can be developed, lessons learned implemented, and new techniques developed to address shortfalls.  In the future I anticipate using case study methods (time permitting) as part of a problem solving methodology particularly useful in instances where I may have no direct experience.
The case analysis assignment tool used at Embry Riddle can be improved by requiring the subject matter to be approved by faculty early in the process thus assuring the student is devoting the appropriate energy to a worthwhile research effort.  This is less critical as students advance in subject matter knowledge but more relevant early in the MAS specialization process.


Tellis. W. (1997, September). Application of a case study methodology [81 paragraphs]. The Qualitative Report [On-line serial], 3(3). Retrieved from
 United States Navy (USN),  (1999).  Surface Force Training Manual.  Retrieved from

The Morality and Ethics of UAS in Combat
The use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in armed combat has become a much discussed moral and ethical issue largely since the first armed drone strike in 2001 by an armed Predator in Afghanistan (Weinberger, 2014).  Use of UAS as strike vehicles, particularly by the US military and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), has increased significantly since that first strike with an estimated 3,300 combatant deaths attributed to UAS strikes (Byman, 2013).  Regardless of the strike vehicle, manned aircraft (MA) or UAS, according to Air Force officials the decision process for the kill - no kill decision is the same (Greenberg, 2008).  UAS have several advantages over manned aircraft (MA) in the prosecution of precision air strikes, the most obvious being the lack of risk of casualty to the pilot and aircrews.  It is this factor that has led to much debate with regards to the use of UAS in the application of lethal force.
Technical Advantages UAS versus MA
A key tactical advantage offered by UAS is the significant loiter times which far exceed that of manned strike aircraft.  For example, an MQ-9 Reaper has a range without refueling of 1000 nautical miles (USAF, 2010) and a flight duration of approximately 27 hours (General Atomics, 2015) as opposed to an F-16, which without refueling, has a combat radius of approximately 500 miles (Global Security, 2015).  Extended flight durations and loiter times allow for long term monitoring of possible targets to ensure fidelity in target assignment as well as the capability to safely remain on station after the strike to perform after action battle damage assessments and continued intelligence gathering. 
Human factors 
Fuel loads and aircraft capability aside, the extended flight duration capability is not available with smaller fighter and attack aircraft (tactical) simply due to human operator flight hour limitations of 12 hours (U.S.A.F., 2014).  On the other hand, through the use of crew changes and shift work, UAS operations can utilize the full extent of the extended operating durations.  The implementation of shift work in combat UAS operations has driven new research into the fatigue and stress factors associated with long term UAS combat operations. 
High levels of fatigue and stress can lead to poor decision making and numerous other psychological problems as well as manifestation of physical ailments such as high blood pressure and headaches (Mayo Clinic, 2013).  Research has indicated that UAS crews may possibly experience greater levels of fatigue due to longer missions and the inherent negative physiological effects of shift work (Tvaryanas & MacPherson, 2009) and are also vulnerable to the effects of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and moral injury (Mathews, 2014).  Earlier psychological theory had held that PTSD could only be experienced by those directly exposed to physical threat as opposed to the indirect exposure typical of UAS operations (Mathews, 2014).  Research would indicate the idea of “antiseptic feel” as opined by Carter (2013, video, 30 sec) appears contrary to the psychological impact of combat strikes to UAS operators, who by virtue of their witnessing the human impact of their actions due to after action loitering may develop existential neurosis leading in some case to suicide (Mathews, 2014).
Ethics and Morality
Rules of engagement
Rules of engagement imposed upon those in harm's way further the justification for use of unmanned aircraft on the battlefield.  Under part of the rules of engagement agreed to between US Secretary of State Kerry and then Afghan President Hamid Karzai, U.S troops in Afghanistan cannot engage an enemy without first confirming with certainty that the enemy is armed even when the target has been already confirmed as being the enemy; additionally, except under extremely limited circumstances American troops may not enter an Afghan home (Scarborough, 2013).  Under this policy it is theoretically possible for an armed insurgent to enter a home and be excluded from attack unless the insurgent fires from the home, and even then there are limitations. 
Existing policy is perceived by some as restrictive and a causal factor in numerous battlefield deaths.  As revealed in an investigative file concerning the downing of an American CH-47 helicopter that resulted in the death of 30 American service-members, this belief was testified to by an Apache gunship pilot and an AC-130 gunship navigator (Scarborough, 2013).  The Apache pilot after seeing the location from which an insurgent had just fired a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) that struck the American CH-47 helicopter (killing all 30 aboard) stated the rules of engagement prohibited the him from firing directly at the enemy, “Due to [rules of engagement] and tactical directives, I couldn’t fire at the building where I thought the [shooter] was, so I aimed directly to the west of the building,” (p. 1).  In the same battle preceding the loss of the CH-47, an AC-130 gunship was denied permission to fire at a known enemy location,  “There were several opportunities where we could have engaged with 40 mm ensuring zero [collateral damage estimate] on any buildings, the opportunity was definitely there for us to engage those two guys or even provide containment fires to try to slow their movement” (p.1.).
These rules create an additional need to develop tactical methodology to engage the enemy while decreasing troop exposure; UAS are just such a method.  Additionally, UAS strike operations have the ability to follow rules of engagement without endangering a soldier or airman’s life.  According to Dr. Stephen Carter, Yale Law School Professor, the current administration believes that UAS are ideally suited to this in that they are highly accurate and able to “discriminate perfectly”  (Carter, 2013, video, 2:17 sec), an assertion he does not dispute.  
The principal in the just conduct in war that bears relevance in this review is that of discrimination.  Discrimination as applied to war fighting is simply the concept of target discrimination, in other words, who is a target and who is not, some may look at this as discriminating between combatants and non-combatants.  (Moseley, n.d.).  Whether one agrees or disagrees with this concept is beyond the scope of this document however, the use of UAS for precision strikes neatly satisfies the requirement of discrimination within the concept of UAS strike operations. 
Over the course of the Global War on Terror (GWOT) some reports indicate that UAS have consistently killed less non-combatant than their manned counterparts (Saletan, 2013).  Over a period of six years, from 2006 through 2012, several agencies have calculated the percentage of civilian death as opposed to al-Quaida and Taliban deaths in Pakistan as a result of UAS strikes.  Figures ranged from a low of six percent to a high of 22 to 35 percent; compare this to the death rates of civilians in previous conflicts, most directly comparable (due to the air strike factor only with no ground troops in the calculations) the NATO bombing campaign in Serbia, 83 percent (Saletan, 2013).  Although there are opposing viewpoints and exact figures are extremely difficult to ascertain due to different methodologies, military and CIA secrecy requirements, and the integrity or political agendas of the reporting agency, research does support that UAS strikes are capable of inflicting less collateral damage than MA strikes.  Walsh, after reviewing numerous data sources comes to the conclusion that civilian deaths attributable to drone strikes are typically similar or in most accounts lower than civilian deaths from other methods (Walsh, 2013).
Continued development
            UAS development continues at a rapid pace with new UAS such as the shipboard capable X-47, the ultra high altitude RQ-180, and the mach 6 capable SR-72 as prime examples of cutting edge UAS development (Weinberger, 2014).  Specifically related to precision strikes, improvements in imaging systems will continue to improve the utility and accuracy of UAS in strike roles.  The ARGUS-IS 1.8 gigapixel resolution imaging system designed for UAS operations is reportedly capable of taking images as small as 15 centimeters from an altitude of 6 kilometers (, 2013).  This type of high-level resolution enables decision makers and intelligence personnel to have greater clarity of the action on the ground and be more accurate in assessments that preface kill – no kill decisions.
The ability to operate long endurance, strike capable UAS from aircraft carriers is another development that will provide flexibility for battlefield commanders and strategic planners.  Eliminating the need to operate from foreign soil via ship based air operations has long been a successful strategy of the United States in the manned aircraft environment and will likely be so in the unmanned environment.  One such aircraft currently under development that is designed to be capable operating form an aircraft carrier is the X-47 (Weinberger, 2014). 
Lastly, continued debate, both nationally and internationally, on the rules of war and the lethal use of UAS can serve only to heighten the populace’s level of awareness of the issue and enable policy makers at all levels to determine policies and rules that, if not satisfy, at least recognize the concerns of the citizenship.

Byman, D.  (2013).  Why drones work.  Foreign Affairs.  Retrieved from
Carter, S.  (2013, Mar 26).  Drone ethics: Stephen Carter extended interview.  Video.  Retrieved from
General Atomics  (2015).  MQ-9 Reaper/Predator B.  Retrieved from
Global Security  (2015, May 13).  F-16 Fighting Falcon.  Retrieved from
Greenberg, A.  (2008, May 30).  War without soldiers.  Forbes.  Retrieved from
Mathews, M.  (2014).  Special: Stress among UAV operators – Posttraumatic stress disorder, existential crisis, or moral injury.  Ethics and Armed Forces.  Retrieved from
Mayo Clinic  (2013, July 19).  Stress symptoms: effects on your body and behavior.  Retrieved from (2013, February 20).  Super high-def camera for drones.  Retrieved from
Moseley, A.  (n.d.)  Just War theory.  Internet encyclopedia of philosophy.  Retrieved from
Saletan, W.  (2013, March 13).  In defense of drones.  Slate.  Retrieved from
Scarborough, R.  (2013, November 26).  Rules of engagement limit the actions of U.S. troops and drones in Afghanistan.  The Washington Times.  Retrieved from
Tvaryanas, A., MacPherson, G.  (2009).  Fatigue in pilots of remotely piloted aircraft before and after shift work adjustment.  Retrieved from
U.S.A.F  (2010, August 18).  MQ-9 Reaper.  Retrieved from
U.S.A.F.  (2014, November 7).  Air Force Instruction 11-2-2, volume 3.  Retrieved from
Walsh, J.  (2013, September).  The effectiveness of drone strikes in counterinsurgency and counterterrorism campaigns.  Retrieved from
Weinberger, S.  (2014, May 17).  The ultra-lethal drones of the future.  The New York Post.  Retrieved from

Sunday, May 10, 2015

ASCI 638 Assignment 7-6

Operational Risk Management
The object of this document to review Operational Risk Management (ORM) as applies to small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS).  ORM as defined by the FAA is a “…decision making tool to systemically help identify operational risks and benefits and determine the best course of action for any given situation” (FAA, 2000, pg. 15-2).  In simpler terms it is a structured method to mitigate operational risk.  ORM can be applied to any industry or field of endeavor from banking to combat operations but for this discussion we will relate ORM to the safe operation of the MLB Super Bat DA-50.
The MLB Super Bat DA-50 is a commercially available sUAS marketed as an ideal tool for surveillance, monitoring, force protection and agricultural and wildlife uses (MLB Company, 2015).  A slightly smaller and less capable version, the Bat, was used by the Washington State Department of Transportation as a test mule to assess the viability of UAS for long term UAs use in road and avalanche control, including the dropping of explosives to trigger controlled avalanches (McCormack, 2008).  The Super Bat DA-50 is bungee launched and lands autonomously in a 100 by 40 meter area and can safely operate in winds of up to25 knots.  Various sensor packages are available dependent upon need.  An overview of characteristics is presented below in Table 1.
Table 1.  MLB Super Bat DA-50 characteristics.
Wing span
8.5 feet
6 lbs.
Fuel capacity
11.5 lbs.
Data link
2.4 GHZ video downlink, 900 MHZ spread spectrum 2 way modem w/ optional long range data link
10 hours
Speed range
40-70 knots
Fuel range
450 miles
Operational ceiling
15,000 feet

Table 1  
         Prior to reviewing the ORM process several basic terms must be defined
 (FAA, 2000):
·      Risk: The likelihood of loss from exposure to a hazard.
·      Identified risk:  Risk that has been determined to exist.
·      Unidentified risk:  Risk of which the participants in activity are unaware or risk that is otherwise unidentified.
·      Total risk:  A combination of identified and unidentified risk.
·      Acceptable risk:  The likelihood of loss deemed tolerable after implementation of controls.
·      Unacceptable risk:  Risk that must be eliminated and is not deemed tolerable.
·      Residual risk:  The level of risk remaining after implementation of controls.
  The ORM process utilizes several tools in a logical sequence beginning with the preliminary hazard list/analysis (PHL/A).  The methodology listed below was obtained from Introduction to Unmanned Aircraft Systems, chapter 8  (Shappee, 2012).  The PHL is a tool used to catalog and categorize hazards associated with the task at hand.  Additionally the PHL/A will list mitigating actions and be used to assign a numerical identifier to the level of risk.  While there is no set format for a PHL/A several basic categories should be included; a tracking number used for rapid identification, a description of the hazard, mitigation steps, the probability of the hazard occurring, and the risk level both before and after mitigation.  MIL-STD-882D/E, refer to appendix A, provides a method of identifying and quantifying these categories.  Figure 1 is a typical PHL/A.

Figure 1.  Typical PHL/A form.  Note.  Image retrieved from Introduction to unmanned aircraft systems, p. 128, by E. Shappee, 2012, Boca Raton: CRC Press

The PHL/A shown in figure 2 has been filled out with five significant hazards that are possible with the sUAS operation described.  Each is categorized in accordance with MIL-STD-882D/E and mitigation actions described.  The residual risk factor is then determined and documented.  This tool enables decision makers to reduce the possibility of injury, loss of asset, and damage to public and private property prior to the aircraft ever being launched.  Note that each mitigation action receives its’ own hazard number, this allows for easier tracking.  The pro-active methodology ensures the greatest likelihood for safe mission accomplishment. 

Figure 2.  PHL/A with risks categorized and noted as required.

The next step is an operational hazard review and analysis (OHR&A).  OHR&A provides a method to continually track, evaluate, and monitor hazards throughout the lifecycle of the task and is useful tool for providing feedback relating to the effectiveness of mitigation efforts and methods (Shappee, 2012).  A typical OHR&A form is shown in figure 2.  As with the PHL/A no set standard exists for the form however they generally contain the same information with the exception of the OHR&A having a category for action review.  As with the PHL/A, MIL-STD-882D/E provides a useful matrix of category definitions and ratings.  It should be noted that any change to the system should drive a new review and an update to the PHL/A and OHR&A (Shappee, 2012).
Upon operational evaluation and testing the OHR&A is used to track the effectiveness of mitigating actions.  Actions that are successfully mitigated should be monitored and actions that are not successfully mitigated will be reviewed and updated as needed.  Occasionally during testing or operations additional hazards may present themselves, these hazards should be added to the OHR&A.

Figure 3.  Typical OHR&A form.  Note.  Image retrieved from Introduction to unmanned aircraft systems, p. 128, by E. Shappee, 2012, Boca Raton: CRC Press

Figure 4.  OHR&A with updates. 

            The last major step in ORM is to develop a risk assessment tool that is used to aid in the decision making process relative to the safe conduct of the mission or task.  The risk assessment tool can be complicated or simple and should be able to be tailored to the specific operation and equipment.  Using the tool shown in Figure 3 identify the mission type and go down the column on the left assessing each category, place the numerical score in the column on the far left and upon completing the assessment compare the total score to the categories listed on the bottom of the form.  This will provide the operator with a quantifiable determination of the level of risk involved for the particular mission, a decision can then be as to the feasibility, form a safety perspective, of the mission.  The MLB Super Bat DA-50s capabilities, and specifications meld ideally with the risk assessment tool presented in figure 3 and this would be a very suitable tool for its’ intended purpose. 
            In this case, the pilot of the sUAS will utilize the risk assessment tool prior to each flight and using the procedures described above categories the safety viability of the proposed mission.  For our hypothetical scenario we will assume a support mission, clear weather with no mitigating factors, line of sight observation, winds less than 10 knots, all pilots current and no modifications to the aircraft.  As this is a group 2 sUAS the final score would be 23 indicating a low risk level categorization, consequently the flight can be conducted with a low risk level.  Changing the responses to a few of the categories can affect the decision making process, for example if the pilot is not current, the tool would present a no fly scenario.  The benefit of this method is the aircrew and other decision makers are presented with a quantifiable risk assessment which relies on fundamental categories and agreed upon standards to assist in a critical decision making process.

Figure 3.  sUAS risk assessment tool.  Note.  Image retrieved from Introduction to unmanned aircraft systems, p. 128, by E. Shappee, 2012, Boca Raton: CRC Press



FAA.  (2000, December 30).  Operational risk management.  Retrieved from
McCormack, E.  (2008, June).  The use of small unmanned aircraft by the Washington State Department fo Transporation.  Retrieved from
MLB Company.  (2015).  Products: Super Bat DA-50.  Retrieved from
Shappee, E. (2012).  Safety Assessments in R. Barnhart, S. Hottman, D. Marshall, & E. Shappee (Eds.), Introduction to Unmanned Aircraft Systems (pp. 123-135).  Retrieved from

                                                             Appendix A

MIL-STD-882D/E severity and probability charts

Sunday, May 3, 2015

ASCI 638 Activity 6.6

This post is for an assignment discussing automated landing and take off systems in UAS and manned aircraft.

                                                                          Automated Systems

        Automation in manned and unmanned aircraft continues to evolve and this is particularly evident in unmanned aircraft where one of the fundamental concepts is to remove the pilot from the cockpit.  A significant automation feature in both types of aircraft is the ability to land and take off autonomously or with very little human input. For this discussion of automated systems I have selected two completely different types of aircraft.  For the unmanned system I reviewed the Kaman Aerospace/Lockheed Martin K-MAX UAS and for the manned system I selected the Airbus A-320.
       The Airbus A-320 is capable of fully automated landing including the ability to steer the aircraft on the ground, initially through rudder inputs then through nose wheel steering, it is also capable of bringing the aircraft to a complete stop when used in combination with the auto-brake system (Skybrary, 2013).  The A-320 is equipped with dual autopilots and can satisfy Category II, decision height (DH) 100 feet or greater, and Category III, DH less than 100 feet.  To engage auto-land the pilot must perform a series of operations while in autopilot beginning by selecting Instrument Landing System (ILS), then selecting Approach, the autopilot will then automatically acquire the glideslope and localizer and guide the aircraft in for landing.  The pilot must still manually lower the gear as well perform a various other functions such as setting flaps and ensuring that the second autopilot is engaged for category III (Avia Solutions Group, n.d.). In the event of a failure the pilot may take control of the aircraft and override the automated system (Avia Solutions Group, n.d.).  In a fail passive event or a failure in which there in significant deviation the pilot assumes control of the aircraft, the fail passive capability n the A-320 displayed on the pilot’s flight display by the Cat 3 single display; in the event of a fail operational event the A-320 PFD will display Cat 3 Dual and the automatic system will complete the remainder of the of the landing (The Airline, 2012) 
The K-MAX can be configured for numerous missions, both civilian and military however, this review centers on optionally piloted cargo configuration of the K-MAX as used by the United States Marine Corps (USMC) in Afghanistan (Weinberger, 2012).  K-MAX is a unique UAS in that it is available as a traditional manned aircraft or an optionally piloted aircraft.  The optionally piloted aircraft maintains the pilot’s compartment and controls for conversion to use as a manned system (Kaman Aerospace, n.d.).  
       The K-MAX uses a satellite downlink to maintain communication between the K-MAX’s on-board avionics systems and the Mission Management Computer (MMC); the MMC can be pre-programmed with a mission plan that is then downloaded into the Flight Control Computer (FCC), which then provides inputs to the various on-board control systems (Kaman Aerospace, n.d.).  The system enables fully autonomous flight including landing and takeoff.  Optionally, the MMC can be directed to relinquish control to a ground operator at the departure, destination, or any combination thereof to allow for remote control of any part of the mission (Kaman Aerospace, n.d.).  Mission profiles can be changed in-flight by uploading new instructions to the MMC from the ground control station GCS via the satellite link while line of sight operation inputs are transmitted from the controller’s laptop, which serves as the GCS via portable antennae.  Redundant MMCs ensure reliability and are a safeguard against equipment failure. (Kaman Aerospace, n.d.). 
With regards to the A-320, improvements can be made via further automation of such features as lowering of the gear and setting of the flaps.  The ability to manually override the process is a key feature and must be retained.  Training in use of the ALS, auto-throttle and auto-brake systems, instrumentation, peculiarities of the specific installation, as well as procedures relating to inclement weather and poor braking surfaces are all required before being able to safely utilize the auto-landing feature of the A-320 (The Airline, 2012). 
The K-MAX appears to be a very well thought out system and I speculate that part of the reason is that the system was developed using a mature manned system and thus the manufacturers needed only develop the automation control features and interfaces.  Training must address all aspects of flight from ground control to severe weather and flight anomalies.  The crash of a K-Max in 2013 was attributed to pilot error and the highlighted the need to maintain weather awareness by pilots and ground personnel (Lamonthe, 2014). 
Safety must be paramount in design of both aircraft and associated systems and automation when accompanied by the appropriate training of crews and development of systems can significantly reduce incidents and accidents while enhancing operational capabilities.


Avia Solutions Group.  (n.d.).  Airbus A320: Auto landing tutorial.  Video.  Retrieved from               

Kaman Aerospace.  (n.d.).  The K-MAX® Unmanned Aircraft System – A Power Lifter Transformed.  Retrieved from

General Atomics.  (20150.  Predator B RPA.  Retrieved from

Skybrary.  (2013, July 30).  Autoland.  Retrieved from

The Airline  (2012, October 08).  Getting to grips with Cat II/Cat III operations.  Retrieved from

Lamonthe, D.  (2014, August 7).  Why pilots cvouldn’t stop a Marine Corps drone from crashing.  The Washington Post.              
Retrieved from  

Weinberger, S.  (2012, Mar 28).  K-MAX, the military’s new delivery drone.  Popular Mechanics.  Retrieved from

Sunday, April 26, 2015

ASCI 638 Assignment 5.5

This post is an assignment for ASCI 638 which required establishing a shift work cycle for a hypothetical USAF UAS squadron.
UAS Squadron Shift Proposal
As requested, a review of the squadron’s current 6 day on 2 days off shift schedule, (6/2 schedule) has been conducted and a proposal is submitted for a revised schedule.  The current 6/2 schedule has generated numerous complaints of fatigue and disrupted sleep patterns and is proving to be problematic.  In a study of 1464 UAS operators and noncombatant airman Chappelle, Salinas, and McDonald (2011) reported a great deal of dissatisfaction with the 6/2 schedule so it is not surprising that this command had the same results. 
Burgess (2007) suggests that rapid rotation of shifts is detrimental to allowing the body to adjust to new sleep/wake cycles and it is therefore not surprising that complaints of extreme fatigue have become commonplace from the UAS crews.  Adjustments to the circadian rhythm occur rapidly in the first 3 days of change and more slowly thereafter with shift changes of 7 days or less producing no permanent circadian rhythm shift (Burgess, 2007).  Consequently the existing weekly rotation schedule places the team members in a continual state of circadian adjustment thereby contributing to fatigue.  Research supports that the optimal shift cycle rotation is a forward rotation specifically days, swings, nights (Burgess, 2007).  Although this is the rotation currently in use, its’ effectiveness is undermined by the brevity of the cycle.
There are two generally accepted schools of thought relating to shift cycles, particularly night shifts.  One suggests a short rotation, no more than 3 days, and the other suggests a longer rotation, typically two weeks or more.  The idea of the short cycle is that the body does not have time to adjust its’ rhythm so therefore the circadian cycle is not interrupted.  The idea of the long cycle is to allow the body to fully adjust; there is no definitive consensus within the research community as to which is preferable (American College, 2003).  However, there appears to be a general consensus that a 4 to 7 night cycle of night shifts is probably the worst possible scenario and should be avoided, the body just begins to adjust to the new cycle and then is thrown into another cycle (American College, 2003).  This can be avoided by repeating the cycle for a longer or shorter period.  After researching various options a 4/2x cycle is presented. This cycle is also commonly referred to as the Metropolitan rota (Miller, 2012) and consists of 2 day shifts, followed by 2 swing shifts followed by 2 night shifts followed by 2 days off  (Appendix A, Table 1).
My personal experience, primarily through long deployments and at sea cycles in the U.S. Navy, has been that longer cycles tend to allow for a stabilizing routine to take place however excessively long, say in excess of 3 months, shift rotations tend to create morale problems and possibilities of animosity between shifts.  Consideration was given to attempting a 12 hour shift as is typical for aircraft maintainers aboard Naval vessels underway however given that Chappelle, Salinas, McDonald (2011) stated a major complaint of UAS operators was working approximately 50 hours per week the idea was discarded and the decision made to remain on an 8 hour shift schedule and keep the work “week” to under 50 hours.

            The proposed cycle allows for a normal shift of 8 hours with no more 48 hours per normal workweek, exclusive of any operationally mandated or situational overtime, accrued during a standard week.  The only negative is the idea of a 6-day workweek however, when taken in context this is far preferable to a 4 or 5 day work week with 12-hour shifts.  Additionally, in an 8 hour cycle, coverage of a missing operator can be obtained by extending by 4 hours the shift of one team member in the preceding and proceeding shift without violating the12 hour maximum operational time allowed for UAS pilots under AF instruction 11-202, Volume 3, General Flight Rules (USAF, 2014). 


American College of Emergency Physicians  (2003, August).  Circadian rhythms and shift work.  Retrieved from
Burgess, P.  (2007, April).  Optimal shift duration and sequence: recommended approach for short-term emergency response activations for public health and emergency management.  Retrieved from
Chappelle, W., Salinas, A., McDonald, K.  (2011, April).  Psychological health screening of remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) operators and supporting units.  Retrieved from
Miller, J.  (2012, April).  White paper: Shift plans with seven consecutive shifts.  Retrieved from
USAF.  (2014, November 7).  Air Force Instruction 11-202, volume 3, General Flight Rules.  Retrieved from

                                                               Appendix A