Chavez on first Venezuelan drone- AFP

CARACAS: Venezuela has developed its own unarmed aerial drone with help from Iran, China and Russia, according to President Hugo Chavez, saying the drones had military and civilian uses.

It is “one of three aircraft that we have made here, and we will continue to manufacture them,” Chavez said on Wednesday during a meeting with defense chiefs.

“Russia, China, Iran and other allied countries” had contributed to the project, he added.

The drone has a range of 100 kilometers (60 miles), can reach an altitude of 3,000 meters (nearly 10,000 feet) according to General Julio Morales, head of the state-run Cavim arms manufacturer, which developed the aircraft.

They can stay aloft for up to 90 minutes and can transmit real-time video and images, and is currently being upgraded in order to carry out night flights, he added.

The three-by-four-meter drone was part of a system “exclusively for defense,” aimed at surveillance and the monitoring of pipelines, dams and other rural infrastructure, Morales said.

Another official said the drone was made from components manufactured in Venezuela and assembled by military engineers trained in Iran.

Cavim is currently developing factories to manufacture rifles, grenades, gunpowder and ammunition. Chavez hailed the recent development with Russian aid of a factory to make AK-103 assault rifles.

“We have the right (to manufacture weapons),” Chavez said. “We would not if we were a colony, but we are a free and independent country.”When completed, the factory is expected to produce 25,000 rifles and 70 million rounds of ammunition a year.

Chavez, who has been recovering from nearly a year of cancer treatment, plans to seek a new term in elections later this year.

Chavez, in power since 1999, has been a vocal opponent of what he refers to as US “imperialism” in Latin America, and has boasted of close ties with American foes like Iran and Cuba.

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