Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) Pilot

Remotely Piloted Aircraft System Pilots have a unique and challenging role. They provide air power on behalf of the UK by operating the Reaper, a state-of-the-art medium altitude long endurance remotely piloted aircraft.

Typical Responsibilities:

  • Control the Reaper for persistent intelligence, surveillance & reconnaissance and, if required, ground-attack missions worldwide
  • Mission planning and ground based staff duties

Similar civilian roles include UAV Pilot Operator, Pilot Instructor, System Specialist, Simulator Coordinator.

RAF Regulars and Reserves work side by side.

Scroll down to explore the opportunities as a Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) Pilot in the RAF.

Key Facts

Full Time Regular

Full Time Regular

Initial pay after training

£30,616 + Benefits

Pay during training

£25,727 + Benefits

Entry level



Usual service

12 years

In the RAF

My Role

‘I am a pilot on Reaper - a Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) which has been operated from RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire since April 2013.

The Reaper is controlled by crews of professional pilots, sensor operators and Mission Intelligence Co-ordinators centrally from Ground Control Stations.

Although the aircraft only flies as part of operations overseas, from the moment I begin preparation with the squadron for a sortie, deployment of a military unit, in my mind I am in Afghanistan.

Before a sortie I must complete all of the pre-flight work, but once it is done I make the walk down a secure stairway which brings me out in the hanger and from that point I am definitely in a bubble. From the moment I walk in, my mind is always on the mission ahead. ‘

My Day

'It is my job to control the aircraft and also go through the same preparation such as pre-flight planning, comprehensive briefing, hand-over, weather, intelligence and usual air-space flight considerations as any other daily routine on a flying squadron.

 What makes my job so rewarding is that in a single shift my colleagues and I can fly in support of an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) convoy from the moment it sets off to the moment it reaches its destination. We are constantly using Reaper to look over the horizon for threats, noting if they have any difficulties on the ground and, most importantly, being with them for the whole journey. 

That, to my mind, is a good day’s work done and we know the guys on the ground really appreciate it.'

Ashley, Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) Pilot


Full Time Regular

Full Time Regular

Initial Training

Like all our officers, you’ll begin your RAF career with Initial Officer Training (IOT) at the RAF College Cranwell in Lincolnshire.

You’ll follow a challenging 24-week course designed to develop your leadership and management skills. The course includes fitness development, military training and academic study as well as practical outdoor leadership challenges. You can find out more information about IOT in this publication.

Specialist Training

Your specialist training begins with a bespoke version of Elementary Flying Training (EFT), including ground school and then flying the Tutor aircraft. You will complete the Tutor training with an Instrument Flight Test and Final Handling Test before being awarded RPAS(P) wings. You will then go to the Reaper Formal Training Unit (FTU) in the USA to train on the aircraft you will be flying operationally.

The FTU is completed at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, USA. You will spend 6 months completing the ground school elements and learning how to operate the aircraft, including weapons.

Foundation Tour

During your first tour, you will be posted to either XIII Sqn RAF Waddington (UK) or 39 Sqn Creech Air Force Base (USA). You will most likely fly an aircraft on operations over hostile territory, providing persistent ISR and if required, armed overwatch.

Your Career Prospects

You will join the RAF on an Initial Commission of 12 years and may be selected to serve on a pension earning commission of 20 years service or age 40, whichever is the later, during this time. Promotion to the rank of Flight Lieutenant is on a time served/satisfactory service basis. Further promotion to Squadron Leader and above is by competitive selection.

Ongoing Development

As an RPAS pilot, you will have opportunities for further professional development throughout your career. As well as training personnel at the FTU and deploying on the Reaper Launch and Recovery Element, there are opportunities for structured command and staff training as your career progresses.

Transferable Skills

The skills and experience you gain throughout your career as a RPAS pilot in the RAF will equip you for a number of civilian jobs, including civilian UAV pilot operator, pilot instructor, systems specialist and simulator coordinator.


Full Time Regular

Full Time Regular



You need:

GCSE at Grade C/4-5 or above in English Language
GCSE at Grade C/4-5 or above in Maths
GCSEs at Grade C/4-5 or above in three other subjects.


SCE Standard Grades at Grade 2/Scottish National 5 (Grades A-C) in English Language
SCE Standard Grades at Grade 2/Scottish National 5 (Grades A-C) in Maths
SCE Standard Grades at Grade 2/Scottish National 5 (Grades A-C) in three other subjects

In addition, you need at least 2 A2 Levels/3 Highers at Grade C or above (excluding General Studies or Critical Thinking) which must total a minimum of 64 UCAS points. 

Alternatively, if you hold a UK degree at Grade 2:2 or higher (or acceptable alternative) you only need Mathematics and English Language GCSEs at a minimum of Grade C (Grade 4 to 5 with effect from Aug 17) or Mathematics and English Language SCE Standard Grades of 2  or SNE Grade 5 (A-C).


  • 17.5 - 31.5 (Must enter IOT before the age of 32 and six months)

RAF Requirements

To join the RAF you will need to meet the fitness, health, nationality, residency and other criteria detailed below.


Register your interest for Regular service, and apprenticeships. Use the link below or call the Regular information line.

Full Time Regular

Full Time Regular