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Colombia’s ‘Army of Drones’ is Poisoning Cocaine Crops

A cocaine lab in a rainforest. Credit: Valter Campanato
A cocaine lab in a rainforest. Credit: Valter Campanato


Colombia’s ‘Army of Drones’ is Poisoning Cocaine Crops


According to latest reports drones are being used for law enforcement in Colombia. This exercise is aimed at farmers who produce the crops which eventually become cocaine.

Government officials have been using drones to crack down on wrongdoers in the past; however, this instance in Colombia is that of a government taking drone use one step further. The Wall Street Journal reports that the Colombian government has partnered with a drone company to equip drones with herbicide. So, apart from performing the function of just being mere eyes in the sky to help locate fields of coca plants the drones will identify and then kill the plants all at the same time.

The report states that 10 drones have already been deployed in this novel initiative in the initial test rollout. What’s more, the drones more precision than similar herbicide deployment from manned aircraft! These drones weigh around 50 pounds with their payload of plant-killing chemicals, and reportedly the test phase has already resulted in the destruction of “hundreds of acres” of coca crops.

The obvious advantage of using drones is that they can identify the crops from large distances due to their birds-eye view. However, the end would be a sorry affair if the drone is spotted by farmers (who could be armed) making the confrontation one-sided. Losing a drone is a relatively inexpensive proposition since the drones can actually help protect the farmers as well. When spraying herbicide from planes, the chemicals will naturally drift and spread over a wide area. This is a given when tackling a massive field but while targeting smaller farms often results in the chemicals finding its way on foliage and other plants that aren’t directly being targeted.

Whether those chemicals cause harm to humans, potentially increasing the risks of cancers and other illness, is a topic of much debate, but everyone can agree that the precisions offered by the drones is a definitely a plus. With cutting edge technology being developed in the field of UAVs every moment, a target specific solution for crop destruction might soon be developed. This is being viewed as a concrete step by the Columbian government in dealing with illegal cocaine farming.

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Cite this article as: Vidi Nene, "Colombia’s ‘Army of Drones’ is Poisoning Cocaine Crops," in, August 22, 2018,

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