A drug-toting drone has crashed into a supermarket parking lot in Mexico, a couple of miles from the U.S. border.
Authorities said the remote-controlled drone was toting more than six pounds of methamphetamine when it crashed Tuesday night in Tijuana, near the San Ysidro Border Crossing and about 15 miles from San Diego. Six meth packets were strapped to the aircraft with plastic webbing and black tape, police said. Tijuana police told U-T San Diego it was likely carrying the loot between neighborhoods — not across the border. However, it wouldn’t be the first time drug smugglers got creative.
Traffickers have used drones to do their dirty work for several years, according to the Latin Times. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration reported that, in 2012, about 150 passes were made across the U.S.-Mexico border. Over the summer, there came reports that Mexican drug cartels were building drones to move narcotics into the United States.
They’ve come a long way from tunnels and catapults.
“We would not call using drones a new trend in smuggling,” DEA spokesman Amy Roderick told KSWB‑TV in a statement. “This method will only allow a small amount of drugs to be flown at a time and, coupled with the ease of detection, does not make this method very profitable to these drug trafficking organizations.”
Before 10 p.m. local time Tuesday, an anonymous tipster called in the drone crash to police. When police got there, they found a broken black-and-silver, six-propeller aircraft with meth tied to it.
Brian Yates with Drones Made Easy, a shop that sells drone-related gear to the public, told KSWB‑TV the drugs were likely too heavy for the drone. Police have the same theory.
“It has a total takeoff weight of 18 pounds maximum; that includes the craft, the battery and everything that’s going to be in the air,” he said.
Mexican authorities are investigating the incident.
David Shirk, an expert on border politics at the University of San Diego, told U-T San Diego that as drones become a household item, these issues could become more common. Last year, a drone carrying marijuana, tobacco and cellphones crashed outside a South Carolina prison. One was even used to sneak cigarettes into Russia.
“This is a potentially new threat if it became used in a widespread way,” Shirk said. “If it can be useful and productive, organized crime groups will find a way.”