“Currently, Colombia has one of the world’s most operational fleets of unmanned systems which perform security and defence missions for the country.”
Hilda López Gómez is Director of Science, Technology and Innovation of the Colombian Ministry of Defense.
Currently, Colombia has one of the world’s most operational fleets of unmanned systems which perform security and defence missions for the country, especially throughout national territory. Starting a decade ago, this nation has used various types of unmanned systems – ranging from mini to strategic – to fulfil its mission.
Unmanned systems make it possible to carry out intelligence, surveillance, and zone reconnaissance missions throughout the country due to easier operations and logistics, and fewer crew members. The National Army uses them for zone reconnaissance nearby at the tactical level; the Army uses them for surveillance of rivers and seas at the operational level, and the National Police use them to support surveillance and control of urban and rural areas, roads, and border crossings.
The Air Force uses them much more strategically being that unmanned systems participate in operations for surveillance of critical infrastructure and, furthermore, they provide support for military operations in the fight against illegal groups operating in the country. This is so true that among their operations they have several sources of intelligence that have made it possible to reduce the performance of these groups, with the ScanEagle System surpassing 40,000 hours of flight.
Unmanned systems are used mainly due to their payload, which makes it possible to carry out more specialised missions, and sensors that can perform various functionalities, which are more effective and provide better service in operations. Sensors for intelligence with their long-range cameras make possible 24-hour surveillance and control of areas, providing relevant information for decision-making; sensors with pointers support missions for delivering weapons, and this is where these systems are most important for defence operations. The Colombian Air Force has carried out joint operational exercises where they integrate the functionality and capability of unmanned systems with the operations of manned aviation.
The Defence Science and Technology Directorate support initiatives aimed at ensuring unmanned systems can support the Security Force’s mission in accordance with its needs. To do this, it has a team of experts in the field with the development infrastructure necessary to carry out their objectives. It also has the support of institutions and external companies at the forefront of this technology and provide support to Colombia’s Defence sector.
In this regard, there are currently two initiatives in the Defence sector that will soon support the Security Force’s mission, such as the UAS QUIMBAYA System and the UAS COELLUM System. The first has been developed by the Ministry of Defence and the Colombian Air Force, with the support of the Colombian Aeronautical Industry Corporation (CIAC), which will carry out operational missions, and the second has been developed by the CIAC, which carries out tactical missions.
Unmanned systems technology has provided Colombian Security Forces with essential equipment for fulfilling its constitutional mission for the past several years – and will continue to do so into the future.