Navy Drone Pilot Program (2022)

Last Updated on September 15, 2022

The Aerial Vehicle Operator (AVO) warrant officer program trains Navy drone operators to fly the MQ-25 Stingray, a carrier-based refueling platform.

Aerial Vehicle Operators (otherwise known as Navy Drone Pilots) are Warrant Officers in the Navy who operate the fleet’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. Like Navy Aviators, they earn their “wings” for flying these aircrafts.

AVOs will need to have safety of flight technical proficiency and the skills to conduct in-flight refueling. The accession and training pipeline for this program is estimated at 15-18 months (about 1 and a half years).

Program Application

Navy Recruiting Command accepts applications for the AVO program. The initial Aerial Vehicle Operator professional recommendation board was held in 2021.

Enlisted Sailors may apply for the AVO program through their career counselors or the nearest officer recruiter.

Interested applicants should contact their career counselor or the nearest officer recruiter for more information on the application process.

AVOs will wear warrant officer/chief warrant officer bars on both collars.

The U.S. Navy is home to some of the most advanced technology in the world. Both civilians and enlisted service members can apply to join the community and take advantage of the many opportunities it offers.

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Aerial Vehicle Operator

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The Secretary of the Navy has approved the establishment of the Aerial Vehicle Operator (AVO) warrant officer designator to operate the MQ-25 Stingray, the first carrier-based unmanned aerial vehicle in the Navy.

Warrant Officers were chosen as the main operator source owing to their ability to provide career growth via back-to-back deployments.

Unlike traditional Navy Chief Warrant Officers, 737X warrant officers will be accessed through Navy recruiting instead of conversion of chiefs through a board process.

737X warrant officers may be certified to operate other unmanned aerial vehicles in the future to fulfill Navy needs.

This signifies the continued agility and flexibility of talent management under Sailor 2025, which seeks to put the right Sailors in the right job.

Warrant Officers

The Navy’s first carrier-based unmanned aerial vehicle, the MQ-25 Stingray, is projected to achieve Initial Operational Capability in Fiscal Year 2025.

The difficulty of running and accomplishing its task from a carrier causes the use of technical experts.

The Navy plans to train 737X warrant officers as technical specialists in the operation of the MQ-25 platform.

The Warrant Officer-1 corps will be phased in for the second time, with the first being in the cyber area in 2019. W-1 visas provide the Navy additional leeway in recruiting talent for the civilian sector and junior enlisted troops with critical skill sets.

In contrast to conventional Navy Chief Warrant Officers (CWOs), the bulk of these officers will be evaluated much younger and trained as Aerial Vehicle Operators, much like existing Naval Aviators and Naval Flight Officers.

How to Become a Navy Aerial Vehicle Operator (Navy Drone Pilot)

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If you are interested in becoming a Navy Drone Pilot, you must first be aware that earning a commission (even as a Warrant Officer) in the United States Navy is very competitive, especially in naval aviation.

You must determine if you meet the initial requirements to get a commission in the United States Navy.

To become a Navy Aerial Vehicle Operator (Navy Drone Pilot), you must be a 19 to 32-year-old American citizen with a minimum two-year degree from an accredited college or university and must pass the Selection of UAS Personnel (SUPer) Battery exam with a score of 96 or higher.

Note that this differs slightly from applying for a civilian aviation position because Navy Drone Pilots directly affect national security. Know that you will be held to a higher standard of performance and behavior compared to civilian counterparts.

If that did not deflate you, you may have the right sense of pride and integrity for this job.

Below is basic information you will need to know before applying. There will be more requirements during the application process, but these will get you in the door.

Contact your local Naval Officer recruiter for a more personalized assessment and support.

Basic Eligibility Requirements

The list of application criteria for Navy Aerial Vehicle Operator below is current, as of May 2022.

CitizenshipApplicants must be citizens of the United States.
GenderThis program is open to both men and women.
AgeApplicants must be at least 19 years old and have not reached the age of 32 at the time of commissioning.
EducationApplicants must have a 2-year Associates Degree from an accredited institution or university. Transcripts from college and high school with grade point averages are required.
PhysicalAccording to the physical requirements stipulated by the Chief, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, applicants must be physically fit and aeronautically suited to perform responsibilities requiring flight. Active-duty military individuals who are selected as candidates must undergo an aviation application physical exam performed by a credentialed flight surgeon to establish their aeronautical adaptability.
Time in ServiceAt the time of commissioning, recent or prior enlisted candidates must have fewer than 12 years of cumulative service.
AptitudeOn the Selection of UAS Personnel (SUPer) Battery, applicants must gain a minimum score of 96 or higher. The Commander, Navy Recruiting Command (CNRC) shall try to pick individuals with the greatest mental qualifications, accepting minimal scores only where market conditions or unusual circumstances allow.
Security ClearanceFor access to sensitive compartmented material, candidates must fulfill the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), Intelligence Community Directive (ICD) 704 eligibility requirements.
Personal StatementIn their personal statements, applicants will be required to explain why they want to enroll in the program.
Reference LettersApplicants are required to provide at least two letters of recommendation that testify to their technical competence and expected potential to thrive in the program.
Navy Personnel Command (May 2022)
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Application Waivers

A waiver may be considered where an applicant does not match the maximum age limit but has an extraordinary record or showed skill set needed by the Navy.

No more exemptions will be accepted.

If a waiver is sought, the actions below must be completed prior to the selection committee meeting.

Who May Apply?

  • Civilians who have never dropped out of a military flight training program for reasons other than minor medical issues that temporarily disqualified them.
  • Active or Reserve Navy enlisted personnel who have never dis-enrolled from a military flying program.
  • Active or Reserve enlisted soldiers of other branches of the military who have never dis-enrolled from any military aviation program. In addition, these candidates must either be conditionally discharged from the parent branch or be permitted by a knowledgeable officer of the parent branch to apply for the program in writing.
  • Active or Reserve officers, as well as retired officers of other branches of the military, are ineligible to apply for the officer candidate program under the terms of this Program Authorization.

What to Expect Upon Selection?

Selectees are assigned to attend Officer Candidate School (OCS), which will be held in Newport, Rhode Island.

Civilian and enlisted applicants in paygrades E-4 and lower who are chosen for this program are named officer candidates and are promoted to paygrade E-5 upon reporting to Navy OCS.

In their current paygrades, enlisted applicants in paygrades E-5 and higher are called officer prospects.

In line with 10 USC 571, candidates shall be assigned as Warrant Officer (WO1) Aerial Vehicle Operator (AVO), designator 7371.

Also Read: Navy OCS Guide for Officer Applicants

Service Obligation

Aerial Vehicle Operators (7371) are required to spend a minimum of seven years on Active Duty from the date of their warfare designation (winging).

AVOs who are dis-enrolled from flight training must perform Active Duty under Required Service of Officers Disenrolled from Special Navy Training Programs, MILPERSMAN 1540-010.

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