In a bit of news that made only a small blip in the Brazilian media and virtually no impact in the international media, the special forces in Rio, known as BOPE, began testing drones over favelas citywide. Called UAVs in English and VANTS in Portuguese, the vehicles are being used to monitor drug trafficking groups and are also to experiment with a new security technique ahead of the upcoming mega-events. The military says this type of surveillance could save lives by avoiding fire from traffickers.
So far three VANTS are on test surveillance and in the near future could be used for several tasks including monitoring and support operations in many of the favelas which remain under control or threat from the drug-related gangs that hide among the impoverished residents.
Folha spoke to the head of the project, Major Jacy Montenegro Magalhães Neto:
"You send soldiers into a favela, in alleys and back streets, and they can suffer an ambush...when you send the VANT ahead, it sees things the soldiers don't see. We think of the VANT as a way to save lives [of the soldiers]."Earlier this year, the army began using high-definition cameras in a number of pacified favelas, both on the ground and from the air. An important advantage to using them on the ground was to provide more transparency following complaints from community members of abuses by the armed forces.
Rio Grande do Sul will also see the use of drones for public security, Folha reported. The state previosuly tested VANTS during large soccer games in 2010. There will also be drones on parts of Brazil's borders. Last week, Embraer announced a $1 billion project using VANTS on the border with Bolivia and Paraguay.
Photo: QinetiQ Group