Are drug-carrying drones the future of smuggling? Probably not, DEA says

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Are drones the technological drug “mules” of the future?

Almost certainly not, say Drug Enforcement Administration officials.

On Tuesday a drone carrying methamphetamine crashed in Mexico not far from the San Ysidro border crossing this week, triggering an investigation by Tijuana police and raising the question of whether the technology is a new avenue for drug smuggling.

But drones just don’t seem to be a cost-effective way of drug smuggling, said DEA spokeswoman Amy Roderick.

“This method will only allow a small amount of drugs to be flown at a time, and that coupled with the ease of detection, does not make this method very profitable to these drug trafficking organizations whose motivation is money,” she said.


In this week’s case, an anonymous resident in Tijuana called local police and reported seeing a “flying artifact” with packages attached crash in a shopping center parking lot. The aircraft was an unmanned aerial system, commonly called a drone, and had six packages of methamphetamine, according to a Facebook post by Tijuana police.

Though local media report that the drone was apparently carrying the drugs from one Tijuana neighborhood to another, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see smugglers attempt to use the technology to carry drugs into the United States, officials said.

“While we would not call using drones a new trend in smuggling, we do know that drug trafficking organizations will use any and all means to get their drugs in the United States,” said Roderick.

The packages were secured to the drone with tape and black adhesive, police said. The drone had six propellers and apparently could not support the weight of the drugs.

But officials say drug smugglers never seem to give up.

Tijuana police said they’ve also found smugglers using lanza papas, or potato guns, to launch drugs across the border.

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