Brazilian federal police announced yesterday that, beginning next month, they intend to use unmanned spy planes for surveillance purposes in the slums of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. The planes, which are equipped with high definition video cameras and radars, will monitor activities in those cities and along the country’s borders with Paraguay and Bolivia to combat drug- and gang-related crime.
The deal follows an October 2009 incident in which drug gangs shot down a police helicopter during a gun battle between rival gangs in Rio de Janeiro. Security has become a top priority for the federal and local governments in Brazil as the country prepares to host both the 2014 World Cup and the Olympics in 2016.
The Heron drones are manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. and were part of a $350 million security deal signed between Brazil and Israel last week during Israeli President Shimon Peres’ state visit. The first phase of the deal will involve the transfer of three unmanned planes, a base station and control and inspection systems. The second phase will allow Brazil to purchase 11 more drones.