Truth or Fake

Truth or Fake: Is this armed drone being used by FARC rebels in Colombia?

A video of a drone shooting bullets went viral along with the claim that the weapon belonged to FARC rebels.
A video of a drone shooting bullets went viral along with the claim that the weapon belonged to FARC rebels. © FRANCE 24

A video circulating online claims that a new weapon is being used by fighters from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC): a drone able to shoot bullets while flying. But as the Truth or Fake team found out, the video has nothing to do with conflict in Colombia. We'll also explain how to verify a video online with only your mobile phone.

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One of the first things to have in your toolbox is a reverse image search app, which you can easily find in an Android or Apple app store. When we searched for the video using an app like this, we found that the video was old – and has been online since at least 2015.

The drone was actually made by an American student, Austin Haughwout, who was 18 years old at the time. His videos of modified drones posted on his YouTube channel went viral – but also caught the attention of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Their investigation concluded that it’s illegal for an American citizen who isn’t in the military to weaponise a drone.

Austin Haughwout was later expelled from his university for threatening to kill peoplewith his modified drones.  

Have the FARC used drones in conflict before?

There are some indications that FARC fighters have used drones in conflict, however. An article from the website Infodefensa explains how the Colombian army found a stash of weaponised drones in Tumaco, which were used by the breakaway insurgent group the Oliver Sinisterra Front.

The site explains that this type of drone can be bought easily for the equivalent of about €1,200 and that it can be loaded with bombs.

The Colombian Minister of Defence Diego Molano spoke on the subject at a press conference in September 2021:   

“Intelligence we have indicates that some FARC dissidents wanted to acquire drones in order to develop surveillance and monitoring activities on the other side of the border [between Colombia and Venezuela].”

The Colombian army also said that it had intercepted a drone on the border between Colombia and Venezuela. Many rebel fighters fled to Venezuela to continue fighting from across the border.