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Air Force to Entice Drone Pilots With $15K Bonuses

The Air Force is looking for a few good drone pilots.

The Air Force is looking for a few good drone pilots.

On Wednesday, it announced a plan to battle the "critical shortage of remotely piloted aircraft pilots" by offering recruits a retention bonus of $15,000 per year for five- and nine-year stints starting in 2016.

According to the Air Force, the average MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper pilot flies up to 900 hours per year, compared to the 250 hours averaged by fighter pilots.

It's attempting to boost its drone program by assigning 80 newly trained pilots to remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) positions over the next 12 months. The Air Force is also hoping Congress approves $100 million in funds for six "next-generation" ground control stations, better software, and more training simulators.

"This is a high demand mission set," Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said in a statement. "It is a national security imperative that we get this right."

Related: Inside Drone School: How to Fly an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle

It's not only the military that is looking for drone pilots. Several schools, including Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, are now offering programs for civilians looking to fly drones for industries like oil, agriculture wildlife preservation.