After a five-year long increase in the production of the drug in Colombia, police in the South American country are considering using drones to help fight against cocaine.
According to contracting documents between a local company and Colombian anti-narcotics police, authorities are ready to begin testing drones that will be used to spray pesticide on fields of coca, the organic material that is converted into cocaine.
Estimates from the United States have determined that coca production in Colombia has increased threefold since 2012, creating tension between the two countries. While there is an estimated 188,000 hectares of coca fields in the country, the remote-controlled drones are expected to be capable of spraying 20 acres of coca field per day.
In the past, Colombian authorities have used planes to spray pesticide on coca fields. However, in 2015, in spite of protestations from the U.S., Columbia outlawed aerial spraying of crops of coca due to health and environmental concerns. Drones, on the other hand, do not violate this ban, given that they are capable of flying and operating at a much lower altitude.
Furthermore, the aerial drones may allow Colombian police to gain access to areas which would otherwise be inaccessible due to landmines or armed guards.
A 2017 report from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), 93% of the cocaine which is seized in the U.S. originated in Colombia. According to the report, cocaine production in Colombia tripled between the years of 2013 and 2016, leading the U.S. to sharply criticize Colombia’s decision to ban aerial spraying. Nevertheless, Colombian officials maintain that due to the carcinogenic nature of the pesticides used and the risk to nearby legal crops, aerial spraying is an untenable option.
The remote-controlled drones are only one way that Colombian officials are working to eradicate coca production in the country, with alternative strategies such as a “caterpillar” device that protects people from landmines being developed, as well.