China uses drone aircraft to monitor poppy crops

The month-long campaign is timed with the summer opium blooming season.

Updated: Jun 04, 2010, 15:39 PM IST

Beijing: Americans may be using it to hunt down terrorists in Afghanistan, but China has started using unmanned drone aircrafts to search for illegal poppy crops in the mountains surrounding the Chinese capital.

The sprawling city has mounted a month-long aerial crackdown to hunt poppy planters. The unmanned drones armed with high resolution cameras can fly as high as 6,000 metres to scan for illegal farming, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

This is the first time that police in Beijing are using drones and helicopters to track down opium cultivation in the neighbouring Hebei province whose hills jut into the capital city.

The month-long campaign is timed with what the local media said was the summer opium blooming season.

Xinhua quoting Zhao Wenzhong, director of the drug control department of the municipal public security bureau said the drone surveillance was ordered after investigators found that poppy cultivation in Hebei had jumped by 13.4 percent since last year.

The drug use had virtually been eliminated after the Communist party rose to power in late `40s, but the scourge has returned since the country began opening up to the world in the last few years.