Published December 25, 2016
Three surveillance drones equipped with small cameras were launched by the Venezuelan government as part of an initiative to curb drug trafficking.
President Nicolás Maduro said the drones were built with help from Iran and will be used to monitor Venezuela's borders. Venezuela is a major drug trafficking hub.
During a speech on state television Thursday, Maduro said the drones also will be used to help fight crime, which is one of the country's most pressing domestic problems.
He did not explain how the drones would be used in the effort to reduce crime.
Venezuela’s announcement comes as the United States has begun to use unmanned drones to hunt drug traffickers on both the U.S.’s southern border with Mexico and in the open waters of the Caribbean.
"U.S. Customs and Border Protection constantly monitors activity and trends of Transnational Criminal Organizations and works closely with other federal, state, local, tribal and international partners to combat smuggling in the source and transit zones," a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) spokesperson said in an email to Fox News Latino recently. "This is an example of a binational, multi-agency, law-enforcement approach to address drug smuggling in the Caribbean."
The Department of Homeland Security hopes that the drones will be able to spot semi-submersible submarines and nighttime fast boat trips used by drug traffickers to transport cocaine and other drugs from Central America to Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean islands. Statistics show that the U.S. has apprehended five semi-submersibles in the region, but this is only a small number of those authorities believe travel through Caribbean waters.
"The DHS already uses drones along the US-Mexico border in drug and migrant interdiction functions," according to the security website Insight Crime. "To date, the craft have had a minor impact on border security, contributing to the capture of less than two percent of the undocumented migrants apprehended on the U.S.' southwestern border in the 2011 fiscal year."
The site adds that drones are a costly endeavor that requires a crew of up to 20 ground members in a supporting role. It also said Coast Guard helicopters can do the same job with far fewer people and no runway.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.