The Colombian government has started to use drones to destroy the plants that produce cocaine. Small aircraft loaded with herbicide are being sent to search for illegal fields of coca. But critics have warned that the approach may be a technological fix to a problem that needs a political solution.
The Colombian authorities had partnered with drone company Fumi Drones SAS to provide unmanned aircraft as well as to train police.
German Huertas, the drone company’s director of operations, said the drones had eliminated about 90% of the coca on each acre (0.4 hectare) targeted during tests in the country’s Narino province.
The trial has involved the deployment of 10 drones, each weighing 23kg (51lb) and carrying the plant-killing chemical glyphosate.
In June, the US Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) released figures indicating coca growth in the country had reached an all-time high, with an 11% increase from 465,000 acres in 2016, to 516,000 acres in 2017.
Drones have also been used on the other side of the drug trade. Unmanned aircraft have been filmed delivering illicit substances to prisoners in UK jails, and in 2017 US border patrol agents intercepted a methamphetamine shipment that had been dropped using a drone.