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Drone expert advises widening career options

By Carolina Astrain
April 14, 2014 at 7:02 p.m.
Updated April 13, 2014 at 11:14 p.m.


IF YOU GO

• WHAT: Missy Cummings, Victoria College Lyceum Lecture Series

• WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday

• WHERE: Leo J. Welder Center for the Performing Arts, 214 N. Main St.

• COST: Free

Missy Cummings wants you to change the way you think about drone technology.

Cummings, an associate professor and director of the Humans and Autonomy Laboratory at Duke University, said a person's concept of drone technology should not be exclusively tied to targeted killing.

"Whether or not we do targeted killings from drones or manned air crafts, or SEAL teams, that's a national policy issue that I think is clouding the drone debate," said Cummings, 47.

Her book, "Hornet's Nest: The Experiences of One of the Navy's First Female Fighter Pilots," details her journey.

Cummings will give a lecture Thursday evening on her experiences as a fighter pilot and drone technologist at the Leo J. Welder Center for the Performing Arts as part of Victoria College's Lyceum Lecture Series.

Cummings, a Tennessee native now residing in North Carolina, became one of the the first U.S. Navy female fighter pilots in 1988.

"It was exhilarating at times. It was incredibly frustrating, because the guys didn't really want us there," Cummings said.

To all incoming U.S. Navy fighter pilots, male or female, Cummings said she has the same advice.

"You need to think about another job later," Cummings said. "That's the thing about technology; it's the great equalizer."

Being a pilot in this day is about being either a computer or a human, Cummings said.

"The rise of the robot is happening," Cummings said. "We still have missions that need to be done, and we can do them safer and cheaper without humans doing them and humans can be remotely controlling them."

Drones are different from remote-controlled air crafts, Cummings said.

"A drone pilot commands the computer to do something and then the computer does that," Cummings said. "As opposed to a controlled air craft where it is just basically a signal across a radio wave."

Uses for drones outside of the military exist within agriculture, Cummings said.

Cattle guarding and disaster relief are other uses, Cummings said.

"It's the next big wave of drone use," Cummings said, "using them to both monitor crops and be able to detect areas of crops that are having problems."

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