This was obviously going to happen, wasn’t it?

A man has been charged with using a drone to smuggle more than 13 pounds of methamphetamine into the US from Mexico.

Jorge Edwin Rivera, 25, told the US authorities that he was paid to deliver the drugs to an accomplice at a filling station in San Diego.

Rivera, who is a US citizen, admitted smuggling the drugs five or six times since March.

Border agents spotted the flying drone on August 8 and tracked it back to Rivera who was about 2,000 yards from the border.

He was found with the methamphetamine in a lunchbox and a drone was hidden in a nearby bush.

Drones have not normally been the mode of choice for smuggling narcotics into the America, according to the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

This is because they are only capable of carrying small amounts and are regarded as less cost-effective than using boats or hidden vehicle compartments.

As carrying weight and range increase, they’ll ever more become the method of choice.

Sure, this guy got caught, but they do solve the basic smuggling problem, which is that no one has to put themselves at direct risk by being with the contraband while in that customs station.

22 comments on “This was obviously going to happen, wasn’t it?

  1. But the bigger they are the easier they are to trace. And they still have to be met to be unloaded. I doubt they will get much larger. Might as well fly the drugs over in a manned aircraft.

  2. Might as well fly the drugs over in a manned aircraft.

    Except pilots are expensive if they get caught and aircraft tend to need large runways (or at least clear fields) to land and are easy to track…

    The beauty of drones is that they can be programmed to fly autonomously. You can send ten of them off to fly various routes with perhaps only one actually having the drugs and needing to be met…

  3. Alex,

    Except that aircraft have ‘channels’ in the form of runways. Customs patrol few of these and an aircraft stands out.

    Every drone going to a different spot means a couple of narc pigs going out to find it. Do thousands of those, they won’t have the resources to stop them.

    He’ll if I was a drug legalisation activist living down there I’d fly a drone back and forth just to fuck them up.

  4. I agree with the comments about small drones. The point about larger UAVs is that they still need a runway for large payloads and they aren’t exactly disposable.

  5. You don’t need a runway to land a helicopter or even many light aircraft (or even, though this is getting slightly unlikely, a C130 or its Airbus replacement – you can quite easily create a tactical landing zone in a flat piece of desert as long as you clear off rocks above the maximum size). This leads me to assume that drones are a game changer precisely because, as is said above, they don’t require a pilot? The sums involved mean that the cartels would (I would’ve thought?) be quite happy to risk losing the odd drone, or even the odd Cessna. It’s getting someone to risk 1000 years in jail flying the damn thing which is the issue.

    I would have thought that quite a lot of drugs gets into the USA on small boats landing on unprotected and unpatrolled coastline, though.

  6. To be honest, I’m amazed drones aren’t illegal. Or at the very least need identification numbers, pilot’s licenses and so on. The scope for fucking with the state is fairly substantial. Imagine a hundred video streaming drones over Charlottesville, etc. it would be impossible for the state to have it’s own version of events.

  7. According to one source from my Google search (hi NSA) the value of drugs being smuggled in to the USA from Mexico is $64Bn. Presumably street prices.

    According to this article cocaine has a street value of $24k/kg in Dallas having been smuggled across the border.

    So that’s about 2,500 tonnes per annum, ……. Hmm I think somebody, somewhere is inflating figures or I’ve misunderstood the ones given, but I can’t be arsed doing any further searches.

    Either way, that’s a lot of drone flights so I don’t see them being much more than a tool of the low level dealers.

  8. The poli-pork want new tech to use against us.

    Then there is a big outcry when their toys are turned on them.

    What till some Judgeboy or copper gets shot dead in a revenge attack by a dozen gun-armed drones.

  9. Oh, the drone’s definately going to be a game changer. But there’s a lot of misunderstanding what a “drone” is. Say drone & most people think of those little things with lots of propellors, hover around. That’s an electric model helicopter. The “drone” is the guidance system with various degrees of autonomy.
    It’d be entirely state-of-the-art to make a fixed wing, catapult launched, fully autonomous, radar/IR stealthed airframe with a carrying capacity of several kilos. Speed’s going to be up well over 50mph with a possible flight duration of a couple hours. Run that through a bunch of waypoints, at low level to a destination with an accuracy of feet thanks to GPS & the authorities are looking for a needle in a haystack several hundred square miles in area. A one shot vehicle wouldn’t set you back more than £3-400 if you’re producing them in numbers That’s orders of magnitude cheaper than conventional smuggling techniques.

  10. @Mr Ecks
    “What till some Judgeboy or copper gets shot dead in a revenge attack by a dozen gun-armed drones.”

    There’s various sci-fi authors explored the possibility of that. An explosive packed drone, well camouflaged & left on the roof of a building in a target rich area. To be activated remotely on demand’d be a security nightmare

  11. Incidentally, folk used to seeing GPS on their phones get no appreciation how precise GPS can be. I’ve a little GPS module, USB’s to a laptop, knows where it is to an accuracy of a couple of feet both in position & altitude. Connect that to a RasperryPi & stick it in an airframe & you could probably fly it through a window without touching the windowframe, after a couple miles of flight. You could pinpoint your target & initiate your strike with a mobile phone data call from anywhere on the planet.

  12. ‘What till some Judgeboy or copper gets shot dead in a revenge attack by a dozen gun-armed drones.’

    Wait until someone flies one loaded with TATP and nails into the Stretford End.

  13. ‘BiS

    ‘Incidentally, folk used to seeing GPS on their phones get no appreciation how precise GPS can be.’

    I’m surprised at that, if your GPS set-up is civilian in nature.

  14. It’d be entirely state-of-the-art to make a fixed wing, catapult launched, fully autonomous, radar/IR stealthed airframe with a carrying capacity of several kilos. Speed’s going to be up well over 50mph with a possible flight duration of a couple hours. Run that through a bunch of waypoints, at low level to a destination with an accuracy of feet thanks to GPS

    Pretty much already exists:

    http://diydrones.com/profiles/blogs/canberrauav-outback-challenge-2016-debrief

    Not smuggling, but the Outback Challenge pre-2014 was to fly autonomous drones to a particular point (the casualty), drop relief supplies, loiter, and then return to base. Since 2014 (as the challenge was completed) the new challenge is to retrieve a blood sample at a remote landing site.

  15. Roué:

    “To be honest, I’m amazed drones aren’t illegal.”

    Just wait until some politico gets attacked with one. Then the right and left of every legislative body on the planet will unite to make them illegal so fast you’ll think that photons are slow.

  16. @Interested
    It seems to depend on how many satellites it can see. And the accuracy may be software related. Averaging from more signal inputs. Under clear skies the position’s pretty stable right down to the last digits
    Anoyingly, the interface with Google Earth seems to have disappeared from the ‘ware. I need to have mapping in the library to use it. With GE you could locate yourself down to which side of a bush you were standing & I don’t know how good GE is, itself. Wish I’d had this thing when I was doing outside pipe & cable runs. I’d know where they all were now. Saleable data.

  17. bis,

    The sailing app on my iPad get me down to less than 1m, assuming the admiralty charts are accurate. Ditto my hiking app and the OS maps I have on it.

    BobR,

    Thanks, I’ll read that later.

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