Sunday, March 18, 2012

GPS chip in boot guides air strike of guerilla camp

Mono_jojoy_-_EEUUA 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.

Via @gatorguy2

About Rich Owings

Rich is the owner, editor and chief bottle-washer for GPS Tracklog. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus.


  1. I’d say the feasibility is there. There’s off-the-shelf GPS tracking equipment that utilizes a satellite connection. How do you figure biologists track whale migrations? Those models are big because of battery concerns, but something only meant to last for a few weeks tops could use a much smaller battery.

  2. Was it actually in the boot? As he wouldn’t want to stroll into his local shopping mall, I assume it was delivered to the camp. All it needed to be in was any packaging & to last the time it took to deliver.

    If it was in the boot, could a motion device be used to sustain the battery life. Not sure if it could be small enough though – how do those kids trainers with the LEDs in the heels work?

    • Accpording to reports, it was in the boot itself.

      Never thought about using a motion sensor. That or an accelerometer could probably be added to the chip/module. Then it would only need to transmit if in motion.

  3. Seems unlikely to me – we’ve all had our problems receiving GPS signals even with a
    well positioned antenna and modern receiver. Here, the receiver would have had
    to been waterproofed, hardened, and embedded in the heel of the boot, and the
    antenna placed up in the toe or somewhere where it could see the sky. Then, sort
    sort of transmitter placed in the boot also. Maybe not cellular, it could be as simple as
    a GPIRB. On the other hand, another scenario is possible also, that this story is just
    a deliberate bit of misinformation, i.e. whatever technique it was actually worked, and
    thus has continued value to the military. So place some story that sounds plausible enough
    to work and laugh as the rebels dissect every boot in they purchase.

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