A pair of GPS-chipped boots has helped Colombian military forces destroy a Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) camp, killing 20 rebels and second in command “Mono Jojoy” (pictured at left). Suffering from diabetes and subsequent foot problems, the leader had ordered a pair of custom boots made. When a communication was intercepted, the Colombian military intervened, managing to insert the GPS chip into the boots.
My point in posting this story is to delve into the technology involved. I’ve already been contacted by one mainstream media reporter, asking if this is plausible. In a word, yes. GPS chips are very small and transmitting location is not a huge technological feat. Remote monitoring is the challenge, due to two aspects:
- Battery life – A small battery, even if set to transmit the location intermittently, is going to have a limited life. Reports of the strike have stated that his position was broadcast for several days, and this seems quite feasible.
- Transmitting location – This one is a little tougher. If there was cellular coverage, it’s possible that location data could have been transmitted that way. But in a jungle in Colombia’s Macarena Mountains, with the transmitter placed at ground level? I have serious doubts. Which points to use of a military frequency. Does the Colombian military have the capability to pull this off (use of a small enough chip/transmitter/battery combo, to be placed inside a boot, and then be tracked from a remote location) ? I kind of doubt it. Which points to the possibility of assistance by the US, which has long given support to the Colombian government for battling FARC’s notorious narco-terrorists.
So, is this plausible? Absolutely. Something a developing country’s military can pull off on their own? That one is more doubtful.