Part II - How will AI Affect the Airborne Sensor Operator Profession

Last month, I wrote about why I think AI will not eliminate the ASO job but how it will affect the standard duties of an ASO. This month, I will highlight the specific operational ways AI will affect the ASO profession.

ASOG Article of the Month | September 2023

ASOG Author | Patrick Ryan

AI is likely to significantly impact the profession of Airborne Sensor Operators in various ways. The ASO profession involves monitoring and controlling sensors on aircraft, such as drones, surveillance planes, or surveying aircraft, to gather and analyze data for various purposes, including commercial, public safety, and military data collection. Here are some specific ways AI may affect this profession:

Automation of Routine Tasks - AI can automate routine tasks involved in operating sensors, such as data collection and basic data analysis. This can reduce the workload on sensor operators and allow them to focus on more complex and critical aspects of their job.

Improved Data Processing - AI can enhance data processing and analysis speed and accuracy. It can quickly identify patterns, anomalies, or objects of interest within the sensor data, helping operators make informed decisions more rapidly.

Enhanced Situational Awareness - AI can provide real-time data fusion and analysis, presenting operators with a comprehensive and easily understandable picture of the situation. This can improve situational awareness and decision-making.

Reduced Human Error - AI can help minimize human error, which is crucial in applications like surveillance and reconnaissance, where accuracy is paramount. AI systems can maintain consistent performance without fatigue or distractions.

Extended Flight Times - In the case of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), AI can optimize flight paths and manage energy resources more efficiently, potentially extending the duration of missions and reducing the need for frequent operator intervention.

Training and Simulation - AI can be used in training and simulation environments to create realistic scenarios for sensor operators to practice and improve their skills without actual flight missions.

Augmentation of Operator Skills - AI can be a valuable tool for sensor operators, providing additional information, suggestions, and insights during missions, ultimately augmenting their skills and decision-making capabilities.

Reduction in Workforce – On the negative side of things, while AI can augment human operators, it might also reduce the number of personnel required for specific tasks as Automation becomes more prevalent in sensor operations.


AI will likely transform the ASO profession by automating routine tasks, enhancing data analysis capabilities, and improving situational awareness. As I mentioned in Part I, Operators will need to adapt to these changes by acquiring new skills, understanding AI systems, and addressing ethical and legal considerations associated with AI-powered sensor operations.

With this, no worries about losing your job. Human operators' unique skills, judgment, and oversight will remain essential in airborne sensor operations for the expected future.

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