Drones and the Environment in Latin America

While the debate over the use of drones in the US confronts the issue of extrajudicial killings, in Latin America, the drone debate has a less-sinister and potentially more-useful tenor to it:

[T]here are increasing signs that unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) could bring development instead of destruction.

Enthusiasts argue that drones could be used to deliver medicines and vaccines, establish mobile communication networks in the wake of natural disasters, combat wildlife poaching and provide early alerts for emerging conflicts. […]

Aerial survey systems will be combined with animal tagging technologies and ranger patrols guided by analytical software to provide surveillance to detect and deter poaching.

“This umbrella technology, combined with on-the-ground training of rangers on the front lines of conservation, is critical in the fight against poachers and illegal wildlife trade,” says [Crawford] Allan.

[…] Similarly, in the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil, there are plans to use drones “to identify deforested areas, environmental violations, illegal fisheries and irregularly burned crops”, says Gustavo Biagioni, a captain in the Environmental Military Police in Ribeirão Preto.

Of course, there are other real concerns and obstacles, including the fact that the Brazilian laws restrict the importation of technology due to the potential threat of drones in chemical and military attacks. Nonetheless, the possibilities in Brazil serve a reminder that, while the use of drones in the US has been in many ways troubling (even while alleged critics of drones that the US uses within its own borders have no problem with their use over other countries), the case of Brazil points to ways in which the technologies can perhaps be put to important conservation efforts and social programs in Latin America.

About Colin M. Snider

I have a Ph.D. in history, specializing in Latin American History and Comparative Indigenous History. My dissertation focused on Brazil. Beyond Latin America generally, I'm particularly interested in class identities, military politics, human rights, labor, education, music, and nation. I can be found on Twitter at @ColinMSnider.
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