Drones, a new form of transportation for drug traffickers?

Small recreational drones flown autonomously by remote pilots have gained popularity.Used for photography, film-making and sports, most recreational drones are innocuous. Punitive anti-drugs strategies in Latin America may be creating a new market for drones though. For example, the destruction of landing strips in Peru by the military creates a need for new ways to transport drugs. The heavily guarded border between Mexico and the US also creates a need for new transportation methods.

With recreational drones cheaply available, this provides a new opportunity for drug traffickers. Last month, a drone carrying 6lbs. of crystal methamphetamine crashed in a parking lot in Mexico near the Californian border. Authorities aren’t convinced that this is a viable strategy for traffickers compared to a vehicle that can transport larger quantities. Yet the drugs transported by the drone that crashed had an estimated value of US$40,000.

A recent RUSI report on the illicit trade in tobacco, alcohol and pharmaceuticals suggests that some organised crime groups are deliberately shifting from ‘high risk and low frequency’ to ‘low risk and high
frequency’ operations in order to go undetected. Could the use of drones to transport drugs be a shift in this direction?