The United Nations is planning to deploy a fleet of at least three surveillance drones to help automate its peacekeeping efforts in conflict regions of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda, The Washington Post reported Tuesday. However, African governments are skeptical of the plan, fearing the drones could be used for Western intelligence gathering purposes. U.N. officials defended the plan. As the Post reported:
The U.N. drones would have a range of about 150 miles and can hover for up to 12 hours at a time. They would be equipped with infrared technology that can detect troops hidden beneath forest canopy or operating at night, allowing them to track movements of armed militias, assist patrols heading into hostile territory and document atrocities. “These are really just flying cameras,” said one U.N. official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic. “Our best method of protection is early warning. We recently had a patrol ambushed in Darfur. If you had a drone ahead of the patrol, it could have seen the ambush party.”
The news comes about a month after Google revealed it was separately funding the World Wildlife Fund to the tune of $5 million to launch drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, to help surveil wildlife reserves for poachers.