Colombian Defense Minister Diego Molano said March 12 that 20 drones have been put into operation to guarantee security, protect civilians, and dismantle armed criminal groups in the Arauca department.
The rivalry between dissidents of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC, in Spanish) and the National Liberation Army (ELN, in Spanish) for the control of illegal economies in Arauca has caused an escalation of violence that has left wounded, dead, and hundreds of families displaced since early 2022.
Molano pointed out that, as part of the Arauca Stabilization Plan, drones operated by 24 military personnel of the Army’s 14th Special Energy and Road Battalion will work in precision aerial operations and monitor strategic assets and critical structure in the border department.
“Our National Army protects the civilian population on the border and uses technology to do so, while guaranteeing sovereignty and preventing terrorist acts by armed groups such as the ELN and FARC dissidents,” Molano said.
“They are essential because before we had to go out to search without monitoring; now with the drones they send them, they check them, and we go out safer, because they reduce the threat in front of us,” said Colombian Army Soldier Édison Andrés Rincón Cárdenas to the daily El Colombiano on March 23. Soldier Rincón is one of 7,000 soldiers who patrol the border between Colombia and Venezuela. “The displays show when the enemy is close or may attack and it’s an extra help,” he added.
The new unmanned aircraft have a 5-kilometer flight range, can check critical points, and help avoid enemy surprise actions, the Ministry of Defense said.
The Army is also developing a pilot plan with a small unmanned aircraft, the Gemini 360. This aircraft with a wingspan of 3.75 meters, has a flight range of more than 100 kilometers, a two-hour autonomy, and a payload of 4 kilograms, the Ministry said.
Authorities have been using the Gemini 360 and the Army’s fleet of drones in Arauca to fly over the Colombia-Venezuela border, El Colombiano reported on March 23.
More military capabilities
On a tour of Arauca, Molano talked about the March 10 announcement of U.S. President Joe Biden, who said he would declare Colombia a major non-NATO ally. “Being a strategic ally of the U.S. means greater military cooperation,” Molano said.
Molano said Colombia will have access to surplus military capabilities from the United States, enhanced cooperation, and technical assistance.
Other benefits will be the development of research and technological activities and the strengthening of Colombia’s regional capacity to support other countries against narcotrafficking and terrorism, he added.