TODAY

TODAY   |  July 03, 2013

An inside look at drone pilot training

Drones, which drop bombs and spy on enemies while operated remotely, are among the most mysterious weapons in the military’s arsenal. NBC’s Janet Shamlian heads inside Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, where pilots are being trained to operate the controversial weapons.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> inside view this morning at the military's controversial drone program. janet is at the air force base in new mexico with exclusive details. janet, good morning.

>> reporter: good morning to you. we rarely get such an up close look at drones like the predator. arsenal for certain. just overnight there's word out of pakistan that u.s. drones killed at least 16 expected militants. they created a new type of pilot and this morning we're getting an exclusive look. they're among the most mysterious of the military's arsenal. planes that drop bombs and spy on enemies in the world's danger zones, like afghanistan, without anyone inside of them. often called drones, these remotely piloted aircraft , rpas, are a growing part of arial intelligence in warfare. they focus solely on their mission. in the desert of new mexico , holloman air force base is the center for a new breed of pilot.

>> what are we looking for here?

>> reporter: one who can fly an overseas war by day and be in her own bed every night.

>> at the end of the day , i can go home. it's a different mind set but i can go home to family.

>> reporter: she is learning to fly the predator without being a pilot. the air force will graduate 700 rpa pilots this year. just four years ago the number was 136.

>> this plane is completely different than any other type of aircraft. you don't have to see it to fly it. some train as long as six months and have never even laid eyes on the plane.

>> we have to deal with it in the air and we don't have that initial training of on the ground.

>> that's because the planes are piloted by what looks like freight containers.

>> we train about 12 hours a day.

>> from taxi and take off to the firing of a missile it's controlled by a team of two from a cockpit inside this box.

>> this is why the plane exists for the most part.

>> they offer stunning detail for intelligence gathering half a world away . when the mission is done, look at how the planes are stored. taken apart and placed in a box. almost like a child's toy. yeah and to take that plane apart was less than an hour. also to assemble it less than an hour. that's less time than some lego planes assemble. they don't love the anlage to video games . they're on a virtual front lines but fighting a very real world .

>> with a look i don't think any of us have seen before of the drone program in new mexico . thanks