HomeScience & EnvironmentHow smuggling gangs use drones to deliver drugs across the border

How smuggling gangs use drones to deliver drugs across the border


Drones used to be fancy gadgets for hobbyists or secret weapons for the military. But now they have a new job: delivering drugs. Yes, you heard that right. 

While El Pollo Loco is using drones to bring you chicken dinners, some bad guys are using them to smuggle drugs across borders.

Drug lords, cartels and other deviant organizations have been maximizing the benefits of drones to carry out their illegal drug runs. 

With many borders of hot zones being heavily watched and reinforced, drones are accomplishing what their human counterparts no longer can. Drones have essentially become the new drug mule.

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Police capture and carry drugs with a drone (BSF Punjab Frontier)

The rise of drug-carrying drones

Drug smuggling is a lucrative and risky business. Smugglers have to evade border patrols, customs agents, police officers, and rival gangs. That’s why some smugglers have turned to drones as a new way of moving drugs.

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Drones are cheap, easy to acquire, and hard to detect. They can fly over fences, walls, and checkpoints, and drop drugs at precise locations. They can also avoid human contact, reducing the chances of being caught or betrayed.

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A drone carrying drugs (BSF Punjab Frontier)

Drones are being used to smuggle drugs in various regions of the world, such as:

North America: Drones sent by Mexican cartels carrying drugs such as cocaine, meth, and heroin regularly cross the U.S. border. The DEA also warned that drones could be used to deliver fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin and can be lethal in small doses.

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South Asia: Recently, border officials in the Punjab region of India revealed they intercepted 107 drug-carrying drones sent by smuggling gangs over the border from Pakistan, the highest number on record. Most were carrying heroin from Pakistan to be dropped and received by collaborators in the Punjab, notorious for having India’s worst levels of opioid addiction.

Middle East: The Jordanian air force shot down a drug-laden drone carrying crystal meth coming from Syria. Drug smugglers from Syria, the world’s largest producer of the black market amphetamine pill, Captagon, often use Jordan as a transit point to the wider Gulf Arab kingdoms and the global market. Syrian smugglers have increased the use of drones to smuggle Captagon and meth due to a security clampdown at the Jordanian border, which has made trafficking by land harder.

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Drugs from a drone that was shot down (Jordan Armed Forces)

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Why drones are being utilized by the drug trade

There are many reasons why drones are being utilized by drug dealers. Here are the top seven contributors:

  • Cheaper
  • Easy to acquire
  • Dependable — No snitching to authorities by drones if they are intercepted
  • Less interference from law enforcement officials than delivering on land or air (as in, by hand or foot)
  • Easier than trying to get drugs past borders that are often heavily surveillance
  • Great for scoping out enemies or business opportunities
  • Lowers risk because drug smugglers do not have to be physically present at the drop-off
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Drugs from a drone that was shot down (Jordan Armed Forces)

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How drones are being used to transport contraband into prisons

Not only are drones being utilized for transporting illegal drugs, but drones are also being used to smuggle contraband items such as cell phones into prisons, too. The number of drone-related illegal activities has skyrocketed. 75% of intercepted illegal goods to prisons in Canada were delivered by drones. In the U.K., the government began to enforce a no-fly zone around all their prisons in October 2023 due to an exponential increase in contrabands by drones.

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Drone flying over field (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

Law enforcement turns to drones to help stop crime

Globally, local law enforcement officials have begun to employ drones themselves. Officials in the U.K. have used heat-seeking drones to locate cannabis farms. This technology has proven to be effective in detecting illegal activities and reducing crime rates in the country.

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Drone in the sky (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

Legitimate businesses employ drones to deliver prescriptions

It isn’t just nefarious entities that are innovating with the use of drones. Legitimate businesses such as drugstores and pharmacies are aiming to deliver prescriptions by drone in the U.S. and possibly the U.K. It looks like El Pollo Loco was ahead of the game.

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Kurt’s key takeaways

As drones become more advanced and widespread, the challenges and opportunities of drone drug smuggling will also evolve and require constant adaptation and innovation from law enforcement. Drug smuggling is now in the air, and we need to tackle it head-on by developing effective counter-drone strategies and technologies.

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How do you think governments and law enforcement agencies should respond to the growing threat of drug-carrying drones? Let us know by writing us at Cyberguy.com/Contact.

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