HomeNewsBriefMexico’s Cartels Building Custom-Made Narco Drones: DEA
BRIEF

Mexico’s Cartels Building Custom-Made Narco Drones: DEA

MEXICO / 11 JUL 2014 BY CAMILO MEJIA GIRALDO EN

Mexico's drug cartels are reportedly commissioning custom-made drones to transport narcotics across the US border, illustrating the continual development of innovative new technologies and methods used to traffic drugs.

Cartels have begun hiring local workers from companies in Mexico to develop custom drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), suited to their needs, according to an unnamed Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) source consulted by El Universal.

Since 2012, the DEA has registered around 150 narco drones crossing the border, transporting in total approximately two tons of cocaine and other drugs. This amounts to an average of roughly 13 kilos per load.

US and Mexican authorities have identified Queretaro, Guadalajara, Nuevo Leon and Mexico City as the drone production points, where cartels pay professionals two to three times their normal salary for this custom technology.

While cartels used to use foreign-made drones, the new reliance on home-grown technology and construction is more cost-effective -- the method is cheaper than the construction of cross-border tunnels or the use of semi-submersible vessels, according to El Universal's report.

InSight Crime Analysis

These new developments represent the latest in a long list of technologies and drug transport methods developed by cartels. 

Clandestine tunnels, which drug trafficking organizations have used since at least 1990, have become increasingly sophisticated in recent years. A "super tunnel" discovered in 2013, for example, used a railway line to transport drugs and was equipped with electricity and ventilation.

SEE ALSO: Mexico News and Profiles

The transformation of the semi-submersible craft is also indicative of this trend. Initially rudimentary in their design to facilitate trafficking in maritime routes, they have been developed to sport kitchens and air-conditioning, with the capacity to carry around eight tons of cocaine.

In addition to drones, cartels use other forms of aerial transport, like ultralight aircraft, an inexpensive method favored by drug trafficking organizations for their ability to evade radar while carrying around 100 kilo loads.

Mexican criminal organizations have been using UAVs since at least 2010, but the relatively small amount of drugs transported per trip on the drones registered by the DEA helps explain why the cartels want to develop larger, specially tailored UAVs. As drone technology worldwide becomes increasingly accessible and cost effective, commissioning custom-made drones in Mexico is the next logical step for cartels. 

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Tags

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

MEXICO / 15 AUG 2018

Mexico’s powerful drug cartels could be using armed drones to attack those impeding their criminal operations, marking the potential expansion…

EL CHAPO / 13 JUL 2015

Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s escape from a Mexican maximum security prison thrusts him, and his longtime criminal organization the Sinaloa…

ELITES AND CRIME / 9 OCT 2020

As drug traffickers’ bank of choice for many years, HSBC allowed its services to be used as a conduit…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.

THE ORGANIZATION

Series on Environmental Crime in the Amazon Generates Headlines

17 SEP 2021

InSight Crime and the Igarapé Institute have been delighted at the response to our joint investigation into environmental crimes in the Colombian Amazon. Coverage of our chapters dedicated to illegal mining…

THE ORGANIZATION

Exploring Climate Change and Organized Crime

10 SEP 2021

In July, InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley moderated a panel for the Climate Reality Project's regional series of workshops for young climate activists in the Americas. The week-long event…

THE ORGANIZATION

Gearing Up a New Class of Interns

3 SEP 2021

InSight Crime is readying its newest class of interns – from universities in Europe and the Americas – to begin investigative work on a number of high-impact projects. For the…

THE ORGANIZATION

Tracking Environmental Crime in the Amazon

27 AUG 2021

Next week, InSight Crime launches an investigation – conducted with Brazilian think-tank the Igarapé Institute – on the sophisticated organized crime structures and armed groups that…