Countries throughout the Americas are deploying drones as a high-tech answer to tackling drugs, gang violence, and activities such as illegal logging. From Canada to Brazil, at least 11 nations are flying UAVs over the Western Hemisphere, often Israeli-made. Brazil's Army in January purchased its first two Hermes drones, and its federal police force is set to deploy its first surveillance UAV by July.
Drones are here to stay, experts say, and the time is past for debate. At this point in the game, Latin America should collaborate to develop a code of conduct that will prevent the arming of drones and assuage civilian concerns, says Johanna Mendelson Forman, a Latin America specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, in Washington.
"I think it's the maturation of Latin American defense systems," she says, while cautioning that the potential to arm drones could turn the project into a "double-edged sword."
Latin American politicians are also raising calls for an international pact that defines the scope of drone missions. "Regulations should be established," says Mexican Sen. Fernando Baeza, who advocates a limit on data collection. "The great precision of satellite information could be put to good use, or could be used for spying."