Apiay, Colombia (EFE).- Colombian authorities presented the country’s first domestically produced flight simulator for training operators of unmanned drones.

The simulator is the debut project to emerge from Colombia’s Corporation for High Technology in Defense and involved collaboration between military and civilian engineers, Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon said in an event at Apiay airbase in the central province of Meta.

Aspiring drone pilots carry out a simulated mission with a Boeing-made Scan Eagle, tracking moving vehicles or people or locating rebel camps.

Colombia uses “remotely piloted aircraft” to monitor vital infrastructure and to “protect Colombian citizens with some better elements of observation and intelligence,” Pinzon said.

The Scan Eagle can remain in the air for eight hours at a stretch and flies at a maximum altitude of 19,000 feet. In Colombia, however, it is being deployed at 11,000 feet, according to Maj. Diego Hernandez, head of the Corporation’s simulator division.

Colombia has two projects under way to build drones domestically: one led by the military and the other under the auspices of San Buenaventura University in Bogota.

Out of a total 2013 budget of $102.93 billion, Colombia plans to spend more than $14 billion on defense.

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