From 'Jersey Shore' to the Drone Wars

Denis Poroy/AP

What the Air Force can learn from reality TV.

With more and more drone aircraft patrolling the skies, the Air Force is struggling to manage the huge amount of surveillance footage being generated every month.

Now, Danger Room reports, the service is being offered a solution from what might seem to be an unlikely source: reality television. It turns out the producers of shows like The Jersey Shore, which follow their cast of characters 24 hours a day, have developed some techniques for sifting through heaps of video to find the stuff that really matters.

RAND Corporation recently consulted with the producers of such TV shows as For The Love of Ray J, Rock of Love: Charm School, Kourtney and Khloe Take Miami and, ahem, a documentary entitled Boob Jobs and Jesus to determine how they find the good stuff in hour after hour of mundane video.

The report came up with a series of lessons that might be applied at the Air Force. For example, the study suggests the service rearrange its ground stations, where analysts assess footage, to be more like TV control rooms. In such a scenario, analysts would have individual monitors, but would face a bank of screens at the front of the room showing what's happening in multiple locations. Supervisors would patrol the room seeking to highlight key nuggets of information. Analysts would use headphones, rather than chat windows on computers, to communicate, in order to minimize distractions. Important footage would be stored in a database and tagged electronically for analysis later.

The report lists several similarities between the challenges faced by reality TV producers and drone overseers. Of course, it also notes that "reality" TV is at least a little scripted, while the situations Air Force drones encounter are all too real.