US Wants to Use Drones to Kill Coca Plants in Colombia

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      In an operation, an “UAS Spray Team (UST)” at a base in Colombia would receive a geo-fenced polygon of the intended spray area based on high-resolution imagery or other means, and the team plans and creates the spray mission in a piece of software, the document continues. The plan still requires a human team to travel to a “staging area,” who travel there by transport helicopter and secure the spray area, according to the document.

      The plan then uses an Obstacle Marking Drone (OMD) to mark and verify the perimeter of the spray area, before a second set of Spray Drones (SD) set off to eradicate the crops. The Spray Drones may return to the staging area to “reload, refuel, and relaunch as required,” the document says. The whole process should take under two hours.

      The U.S. government has previously been concerned about how Chinese made drones might be utilized by China for surveillance or other purposes. With that in mind, “The system cannot contain major hardware (e.g., flight controller) flight control firmware, or mission planning software manufactured in China. THIS REQUIREMENT CANNOT BE WAIVED,” one document adds.

      This isn’t the first time the Department of State has sought UAVs for this purpose. In October 2021 it published a similar request, Nextgov reported at the time. But the latest request shows there may be continued interest in the approach.

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