Narcodrones
January 22, 2015 9:24 AM   Subscribe

"Police in a Mexican border city said Wednesday that a drone overloaded with illicit methamphetamine crashed into a supermarket parking lot." Fox News, AP.

This appears to be the first public case of drugs falling unexpectedly out of the sky. But it is not a lone drone,
Since 2012, U.S. law enforcement agencies have reportedly recovered around 150 drones laden with two tons of cocaine and other narcotics, but until the end of last year the cartels were always believed to have used Israeli-built drones that they had imported into Mexico. However, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) sources have now confirmed that cartels have been building larger, more robust drones capable of transporting heavier loads since at least the start of [2014].

DOE claimed that a drug trafficker told him that the drones were being produced at aircraft assembly plants in Mexico City’s upmarket Santa Fe district and near Queretaro’s Bombardier factory. El Universal then confirmed that Mexican and the U.S. authorities have information that cartels are manufacturing drones in both those cities and in Guadalajara and the northern state of Nuevo Leon.

Working from U.S., European and Israeli designs, Mexican aeronautical engineers are reportedly being paid two or three times their usual salaries to develop drones that meet the cartels’ needs. The drones must have fold-up wings so that they can be recovered quickly and easily transported in trucks, Doe noted. Compared to the ultra-lightweight UAVs, he explained that the “narcodrones” – as they have become known – are less easily swayed by weather and require less remote piloting as they can accurately deliver cargo using GPS technology.[1]
posted by stbalbach (123 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
We need to just end the drug war.
posted by empath at 9:25 AM on January 22, 2015 [19 favorites]


Meth-a-Drone!
posted by chavenet at 9:25 AM on January 22, 2015 [53 favorites]


That's impressive technically but also exhibit A in how useless and stupid the war on drugs approach remains.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:30 AM on January 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


This is the part of Skynet that nobody talks about.
posted by Splunge at 9:30 AM on January 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


End the war on drugs? I think not! Surely they can just build higher fences? With, like, lasers and shit?
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:30 AM on January 22, 2015 [8 favorites]


Hydrogen yayo bombs would be fucking' awesome.
posted by phaedon at 9:30 AM on January 22, 2015


We could end the drug war but making something like sky net to protect us from this 21st century scourge would be good. Just don't let it get out of control. Moar drones to shoot the drones plz
posted by aydeejones at 9:31 AM on January 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Jinxish
posted by aydeejones at 9:31 AM on January 22, 2015


cartels have been building larger, more robust drones capable of transporting heavier loads since at least the start of [2014].

Amazon must be seething with jealousy.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:31 AM on January 22, 2015 [25 favorites]


"Crap the flying drug robot crashed" an actual 100% accurate sentence in the year of our lord 2015
posted by The Whelk at 9:32 AM on January 22, 2015 [96 favorites]


Imagine if you could point guns at people and make them grow you plants that can be cooked down into a powder so valuable you develop your own drone program. That's some market forces at work rot thurr
posted by aydeejones at 9:32 AM on January 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


With, like, lasers and shit?

If we start combining the war on drugs and the Strategic Defense Initiative/Star Wars, they better name it after Ronald Reagan.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:32 AM on January 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


Wait I have a good one. Snort Circuit.

"Innput! More Innnnput!"
posted by phaedon at 9:33 AM on January 22, 2015 [35 favorites]


It crashed because it couldn't keep its air speed up.
posted by Devonian at 9:33 AM on January 22, 2015 [33 favorites]


Not the science fiction future I wanted to wake up in.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 9:33 AM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Johnny 5 is Alive! So alive! Can't feel face.
posted by aydeejones at 9:34 AM on January 22, 2015 [43 favorites]


The only thing that would make this more cyberpunk is if the drugbots were hauling something with a stupid made-up name like "Crunch" or "Fizz" or "Molly"
posted by theodolite at 9:36 AM on January 22, 2015 [33 favorites]


Snow crash.
posted by aydeejones at 9:36 AM on January 22, 2015 [75 favorites]


"Crap the flying drug robot crashed" an actual 100% accurate sentence in the year of our lord 2015

Well, like anything else filled to the gills with meth, it came down hard.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:36 AM on January 22, 2015 [8 favorites]


In other news, the dogs that shoot bees from their mouths are in beta
posted by aydeejones at 9:37 AM on January 22, 2015 [11 favorites]


As a drone flyer I'm not suprised this is happening, UAV are cheaper then tunnels. But a a multi-copter is the wrong way to do this. They should have used a fixed wing unit.
posted by Agent_X_ at 9:38 AM on January 22, 2015 [8 favorites]


Q: Why did the drug drone crash?

A: It couldn't stay high enough.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:38 AM on January 22, 2015 [31 favorites]


Wouldn't a truck mounted catapult be cheaper? Maybe this is why pumpkin-chunkin champions have been going missing over the years.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:40 AM on January 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


Sooner or later they'll just develop a cocaine simulator and charge by the hour. Still will be illegal, to shake down the bads and give an edge to the richs who use it to stack new money with their virtual nose to the grindstone
posted by aydeejones at 9:40 AM on January 22, 2015


That picture was misleading because originally I thought that was a lot of tech for not a lot of worth but then I read the caption. Six pounds is a lot of meth.

Snow crash.

This is a wonderful comment but the fact that it took us 12 minutes to get here makes me feel like we are slipping.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:40 AM on January 22, 2015 [16 favorites]


I'm looking forward to the narco-remake of Contact, complete with a coked out Jodie Foster meeting her dad on the beaches of Tijuana.
posted by phaedon at 9:43 AM on January 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


If you don't talk to your Drones about Meth, who will?
posted by nickggully at 9:44 AM on January 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


I dunno man, I thought in the dystopian cyberpunk future we'd all be wearing cooler clothes.
posted by The Whelk at 9:44 AM on January 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


Q: Why did the drug drone crash?

A: It couldn't stay high enough.


I expect to read this in a Christmas Cracker in a couple of years.
posted by yoink at 9:45 AM on January 22, 2015 [9 favorites]


I dunno man, I thought in the dystopian cyberpunk future we'd all be wearing cooler clothes.

You're doing your part, surely?
posted by yoink at 9:46 AM on January 22, 2015 [9 favorites]


As a drone flyer I'm not suprised this is happening, UAV are cheaper then tunnels. But a a multi-copter is the wrong way to do this. They should have used a fixed wing unit.

yeah but much higher bandwidth on the tunnel...
posted by bitdamaged at 9:46 AM on January 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


"Your mother was a snow blower." She always wanted her children to reach new heights, so, good. But don't get high on your own supply. Internal alarm: Humor capacity has reached diminishing return limit, please return later
posted by aydeejones at 9:47 AM on January 22, 2015


They should just release giant eagles to fight the narcodrones. Of course, when the eagles win and get their talons on a near unlimited supply of freshly made Mexican ice, we'll have a whole new problem of meth-powered supereagles [insert Don Henley joke here]. Hopefully it's something that we'll be technologically advanced enough in a few years to conquer.
posted by item at 9:49 AM on January 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


Amazon must be seething with jealousy

I dunno, it's a kind of "proof of concept" really, isn't it? Also it sets up a sweet "If drone deliveries are outlawed, only outlaws will use drone deliveries" rhetoric.
posted by yoink at 9:49 AM on January 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


They should just release giant eagles to fight the narcodrones.

Time to bring Haast's Eagle back from extinction.
posted by yoink at 9:51 AM on January 22, 2015


I have no idea why I keep making cocaine jokes about a meth drone. It just seems like it should've been cocaine somehow, crazy that it's worth the effort to move a fully synthetic drug that way when meth is easier for people to whip together in theory without plots of land 'n shit.

This is ultimately some dystopian terrible-shit, and the first long-ish non-fiction I ever read was "Cyberpunk" (Markoff & Hafner) and "The Cuckoo's Egg" at the age of 12, so I've been chewing on this developing scenery for awhile.

Ultimately this thing is a warning sign where everyone with power is supposed to go "whoa whoa whoa, looks like we have a badass over here, maybe we shouldn't meet it with more bad-assery this time...or it will like, use that bad-assery against us too!"

It's like finding one of those freakish sea animals washed up as a signal that you've gone too far in waging your war on human nature or mother nature or whatever it is today

Bowing out now, 2 Many Commentz
posted by aydeejones at 9:52 AM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


I can't believe everyone is cavalierly making robot jokes when we just lost 6.5 pounds of perfectly good meth. There are kids up in Maine who don't see that much meth all YEAR, and you kids just waste it? Shameful.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:54 AM on January 22, 2015 [11 favorites]


Working from U.S., European and Israeli designs, Mexican aeronautical engineers are reportedly being paid two or three times their usual salaries to develop drones that meet the cartels’ needs. The drones must have fold-up wings so that they can be recovered quickly and easily transported in trucks, Doe noted. Compared to the ultra-lightweight UAVs, he explained that the “narcodrones” – as they have become known – are less easily swayed by weather and require less remote piloting as they can accurately deliver cargo using GPS technology.

I worked with some scientists at the USGS who were using GPS-guided drones to conduct aerial surveys in Alaska. They had fold-up wings, and could be recovered quickly and thrown in the back of a truck (because Alaska is fucking cold), and could carry a scientific payload of several kilograms. This was 7 years ago.

These are all pretty common characteristics for small unmanned aircraft. If the Mexican engineers have developed designs that are more stable, I imagine that a lot of legitimate businesses would be very interested in acquiring that technology.

But, really. Go on with the scare tactics, Fox.
posted by schmod at 9:56 AM on January 22, 2015 [7 favorites]


Snow crash.

more like: The Diamond Crystal Age.
posted by ennui.bz at 9:56 AM on January 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


I droned it in that stevia crap you're always putting in your tea.
posted by adept256 at 10:01 AM on January 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


I think we need to just accept couldn't keep its air speed up and call it a day because that is a platonic ideal of a pun.
posted by Nomiconic at 10:01 AM on January 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


I can't believe everyone is cavalierly making robot jokes when we just lost 6.5 pounds of perfectly good meth. There are kids up in Maine who don't see that much meth all YEAR, and you kids just waste it? Shameful.

Spe-eed. the wo-orld; DO they know it's crystal meth at all?
posted by ennui.bz at 10:01 AM on January 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


I was going to make some joke about T-1000 coke dealers from the future and how they managed to erase John Connor from the timeline by getting to Eddie Furlong. At which point I realized I'm going to hell.
posted by phaedon at 10:03 AM on January 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


As a drone flyer I'm not suprised this is happening, UAV are cheaper then tunnels. But a a multi-copter is the wrong way to do this. They should have used a fixed wing unit.

Something with the ability to be launched by a rail-catapult. Way more distance for the argo on way less battery.
posted by ocschwar at 10:05 AM on January 22, 2015


They should just release giant eagles to fight the narcodrones.

This idea always comes up. "Why didn't they just send the giant eagles?! Hurr durr!"

Because Sauron would just send the Nazgul to kill them and recover the Ring, that's why.
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:06 AM on January 22, 2015 [13 favorites]


"Dude, you're putting too much in!"
posted by No Robots at 10:08 AM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


If it's worth loading, it's worth overloading!
posted by fairmettle at 10:08 AM on January 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


Load it up with meth for the trip north, guns for the trip back south. It's a win-win!
posted by slogger at 10:09 AM on January 22, 2015


So some anonymous guy on the internet says something about these new super-amazing "narcodrones", but the actual drone that crashed here was made from a $1400 kit. You don't need to pay aeronautical engineers two to three times their usual salary to assemble a kit.

Maybe there are better drones being built (which aren't crashing, at least in a way that draws attention), but this story is not about some new super drone.
posted by ssg at 10:09 AM on January 22, 2015


Surely they can just build higher fences? With, like, lasers and shit?

You mean like this?
posted by backseatpilot at 10:10 AM on January 22, 2015


I swear I did not coordinate my comment with fairmettle. Sometime magic just happens.
posted by No Robots at 10:12 AM on January 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Let's not forget the first drones were also used to deliver unauthorised payloads into a hostile environment (your London correspondent writes). It took a while to get countermeasures that worked, but we got there. Lifting useful amounts is also hard to do without becoming ever more detectable, and the raw energy needed when you can't concentrate on aerodynamics and having a decent infrastructure to land on will limit range dramatically. Border-hopping, sure, but it's going to be hard to get much further and the economics will be in favour of less-exciting, more traditional delivery methods for as long as I can see.

I'll bet a pound to a penny that people who are paid to worry about this sort of thing are far more concerned about terrorism and assassination, especially towards high-value targets currently reliant on security cordons, than another way to slip a few kilos of wizz past the sniffer dogs.
posted by Devonian at 10:12 AM on January 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


> "Meth-a-Drone!" ... "Snort Circuit." ... "Snow crash." ... "It couldn't stay high enough."

This. This is what the internet is FOR.
posted by kyrademon at 10:15 AM on January 22, 2015 [17 favorites]


Anda caliente el cartel
Al respeto le faltaron
Hablan de un tal "Heisenberg "narcodrone""
Que ahora controla el mercado
Nadie sabe nada de él
Porque nunca lo han mirado
posted by maxsparber at 10:16 AM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


It has a total take off weight of 18 pounds maximum, that includes the craft, the battery and everything that’s going to be in the air

Somewhere near Tijuana someone is saying "Shit! I could have sworn it said 18 kilos!" Possibly in Spanish.
posted by TedW at 10:22 AM on January 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


I did three years of electronics, electrical and chemical engineering in a pretty good mexican university. I dropped out before I got my degree, but I kept in touch with some friends.

Some of us got lucky and are working in first world countries, but most of the ones who stayed are having a rough time.

Most engineering jobs are a dead end. The best jobs are working as contractors, through evil hiring agencies, for big international companies like IBM, Siemens, Intel, etc... This means little benefits, no seniority, being fired and rehired every few years, and an unbreakable ceiling where only full time employees of the company get promoted past a certain point.

A good engineer with 10 years experience can expect to make 40k USD a year.

One of my friends started teaching at our university in 2006. With a group of passionate students they developed a lightweight low cost surveilance UAV, using mostly local technology and fabrication (e.g. they got a small hot tub manufacturer to make carbon fiber and fiberglass parts). In 2008 or 2009 they went to an international expo and got some foreign governments interested in the drone. It was as capable as Israeli drones, and for a fraction of the cost. Since they wanted it for military purposes and the Mexican constitutions forbids selling armament, the project died. They tried to sell it to Mexican law enforcement and military, but could not do it because some of the war on drugs 'aid' that the usa gives to Mexico specifies usa made drones.

Two of the students went to work for either Sony or Samsung, whichever has a plant in Tijuana. They were hired through some agency, and in 2010 they were making 15k USD a year, before taxes. A Narco would be stupid not to give some of these guys a couple hundred thousand dollars to see what they can come up with.

These were young motivated engineers who had designed and built a UAV by themselves which was better than what the Israeli military cod offer, now stuck in a dead end job doing marginal improvements on smart TVs.

There are thousands of young engineers in Mexico in this situation.

I am not surprised that the narcos are using drones. I an surprised it took so long. I am really curious to see what will come up in the next few years, I have a feeling that only a small percentage of drones are getting caught, and only the crappy ones.

I am also not surprised that Guadalajara is one of the cities. Many transnational electronics corporations have plants there, and the city is lousy with subemployed and unemployed engineers.
posted by Doroteo Arango II at 10:23 AM on January 22, 2015 [74 favorites]


2000's - pirate shipyards making uncatchable smuggling craft, submarines and 10,000hp semi-rigids "go-fast" boats.

2010's - pirate shipyards making uncatchable smuggling craft, unmanned drones.

Next decade will see them making portal guns and cross-dimensional gateways in re-purposed maquiladoras.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:25 AM on January 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


i like how chris anderson (former wired editor!) manufactures drones in tijuana :P
posted by kliuless at 10:33 AM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Headline from 2025: "Former drug cartel, now aerospace company, plans launch of their first module of a planned orbital hotel"

If reality's developing into a middling cyberpunk novel, then the next chapter is: Cartel needs new ways to launder cash because of the crackdowns on the previously helpful major banks. One of the cartel engineers befriends the son of a Cartel boss. Shows him a game made by their countrymen: Kerbal Space Program. Son talks to dad. Realizes they do have a lot of aerospace engineers working for them now, and can get many more inexpensively. One thing leads to another.
posted by honestcoyote at 10:39 AM on January 22, 2015 [7 favorites]


Would these engineers even live to spend the money they make from the cartel? I can't imagine they'd let anyone with knowledge of their operations out of their sight.
posted by dr_dank at 10:41 AM on January 22, 2015


- Who the hell are you?
- You know. You all know exactly who I am. Say my name.
- Sikorsky.
- You're goddamn right.
posted by Behemoth at 10:42 AM on January 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


They should just release giant eagles to fight the narcodrones. Of course, when the eagles win and get their talons on a near unlimited supply of freshly made Mexican ice, we'll have a whole new problem of meth-powered supereagles [insert Don Henley joke here]. Hopefully it's something that we'll be technologically advanced enough in a few years to conquer.

Cane toads.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:43 AM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Or maybe that should be 'caine toads.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:44 AM on January 22, 2015 [11 favorites]


Black Tar Down?
Hmm.
I can do better.
posted by alexordave at 10:48 AM on January 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


According to Rick Perry, just be thankful it wasn't ISIS terrorists airlifted over the border by drone.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 10:48 AM on January 22, 2015


This appears to be the first public case of drugs falling unexpectedly out of the sky.

Nope.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 10:50 AM on January 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


Wouldn't a truck mounted catapult be cheaper?

They're doing that too. Fourth paragraph of the AP link.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:50 AM on January 22, 2015


If reality's developing into a middling cyberpunk novel, then the next chapter is: Cartel needs new ways to launder cash because of the crackdowns on the previously helpful major banks.

Uh, so when does the bank crackdown happen, exactly?
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 10:50 AM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Q: Why did the drug drone crash?

A: It couldn't stay high enough.

I expect to read this in a Christmas Cracker in a couple of years.


Best Laffy Taffy joke ever.
posted by echocollate at 10:54 AM on January 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Would these engineers even live to spend the money they make from the cartel? I can't imagine they'd let anyone with knowledge of their operations out of their sight.

As was pointed out in this thread about the smuggling submarines...

Is solving the wrong problem; drones for the military and for law are designed to reduce danger to pilots and crew: the cartels don't place such a premium on the lives or freedom of their operatives/workers, and they don't assess risk with the same logic that makes UAVs sensible for Air Forces.

On the other hand, maybe this will end up being a fast, cheap and out of control solution for smugglers.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 10:58 AM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


yea, mexico has been actively developing its manufacturing base trying to move higher up the 'value-added supply chain' like in aerospace, which kind of reminds me of sweden's development as a pop music factory for some reason...
posted by kliuless at 11:06 AM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Is solving the wrong problem

Obviously not. I would guess the cartels are probably better at assessing their needs and risk/reward profile than Random Internet Commenter (this includes me). Drones don't get cold feet or turn state's evidence on you. I am a little surprised they are going for big loads. About ten years ago, a friend of mine had the idea for drugswarms: a bunch of cheap, small UAVs that would each handle like 1kg of cargo, so each individual loss would be negligible. Operating on the assumption that the cartels know better than he or I, I guess that must not be such a great idea...or maybe they just haven't had it, yet! Time to set up a meeting...
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 11:25 AM on January 22, 2015


It took a while to get countermeasures that worked, but we got there.
Did we? It looks like there were no effective anti-missile countermeasures in time to be helpful. All that worked was "feed German spies disinformation about targets" and "send enough ground troops to the launch sites".

I don't think either of these apply. Drone launch sites include "anywhere with a straight road", and what's the analog of disinformation about targets? "Actually, Americans are tired of drugs now. We're becoming video game addicts instead. Send more Kerbal please!"

But I think you're correct anyway. Drones are much slower than rockets, wouldn't be too hard to intercept if we saw them coming, and we're well on our way to covering the border with our own surveillance drone balloons and planes.
posted by roystgnr at 11:25 AM on January 22, 2015


An unmanned autonomous submarine would be the obvious mashup of everything we already know they do or have tried.
posted by ctmf at 11:35 AM on January 22, 2015


This appears to be the first public case of drugs falling unexpectedly out of the sky

2 seconds of Googling tells me you are wrong by 21 years.

Although, I just went by the date of the very first result for "drugs falling from sky".
posted by sideshow at 11:36 AM on January 22, 2015


Drones are much slower than rockets

Huh. When can we expect truck-launched drug rockets, I wonder?
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 11:38 AM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


So some anonymous guy on the internet says something about these new super-amazing "narcodrones", but the actual drone that crashed here was made from a $1400 kit. You don't need to pay aeronautical engineers two to three times their usual salary to assemble a kit.

REAL LIFE doesn't make a very good Fox News story though, does it?
posted by sideshow at 11:40 AM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


When will the cartels realize they can just buy submarines from the North Koreans?
posted by Bee'sWing at 11:41 AM on January 22, 2015


When will the cartels realize they can just buy submarines from the North Koreans?

They have submarines too.
posted by Celsius1414 at 11:49 AM on January 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Somewhere near Tijuana someone is saying "Shit! I could have sworn it said 18 kilos!"

Wouldn't be the first time a metric-vs-imperial measurement error caused in-flight problems.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:53 AM on January 22, 2015


> They should have used a fixed wing unit.

Prototype This! built an autonomous Flying Lifeguard that drops self-inflating life vests from a Telemaster (6'-ish wingspan. The 12' Senior Telecaster has a 15-20 lb. cargo capacity).

> Drones are much slower than rockets

Electric giant scale RC planes have hit 181 MPH. RC Jets have hit 440 MPH. Not much cargo capacity in one of those, but you could build a anti- anti-drone with one. That's what you & I can buy. The Global Hawk cruises at 357 MPH at up to 60,000 feet for up to 28 hours. Moto-Guzzi powered slow drones (110 knots) are just one type.
posted by morganw at 12:04 PM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


roystgnr - I was referring to the V1s, not the V2s (that problem's still not solved, despite Patriots and Iron Dome and other delightful ideas). I can't see rocketry being employed for drug delivery: once you start lobbing missiles over borders, you won't believe what happens next!

Delivery by drone is no more sensible for cartels than Amazon (assuming Amazon isn't a cartel by now...). It's a fun idea to experiment with, but I do feel the numbers are against it. And if they're not, then one thing we do know how to do is muck up GPS on demand in very localised areas. Not something you want to do or can be at all cavalier about, but it's most certainly an option.
posted by Devonian at 12:08 PM on January 22, 2015


Wouldn't be the first time a metric-vs-imperial measurement error caused in-flight problems.

No, it wouldn't.
posted by TedW at 12:19 PM on January 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


jinx, TedW
posted by j_curiouser at 12:28 PM on January 22, 2015


They should just release giant eagles to fight the narcodrones. Of course, when the eagles win and get their talons on a near unlimited supply of freshly made Mexican ice, we'll have a whole new problem of meth-powered supereagles [insert Don Henley joke here]. Hopefully it's something that we'll be technologically advanced enough in a few years to conquer.

We simply unleash wave after wave of Chinese needle snakes. They'll wipe out the lizards eagles.
posted by bitteroldman at 12:29 PM on January 22, 2015


It just seems like it should've been cocaine somehow, crazy that it's worth the effort to move a fully synthetic drug that way when meth is easier for people to whip together in theory without plots of land 'n shit.

Perhaps the cocaine-carrying drones aren't the ones crashing into supermarkets.
posted by anthill at 12:56 PM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Between this and cornering the lime market, I've gotta say, drug cartels should expand into consultancy. The Microsofts and GEs of the world would pay big money for solid training on how to recognize and seize opportunities like this, and how to adapt to swiftly changing market realities.
posted by Andrhia at 1:19 PM on January 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


This is a wonderful comment but the fact that it took us 12 minutes to get here makes me feel like we are slipping.

Probably held up reading his other books. Oh wait then it would have taken 12 years.
posted by srboisvert at 1:30 PM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


If this crash is at all consistent with humanity's historic pattern of adopting and applying new technology, it can only mean that porn-ladened drones have been flying without mishap for a couple years.
posted by klarck at 1:37 PM on January 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


Drones are much slower than rockets, wouldn't be too hard to intercept if we saw them coming

I don't think they're that all that easy to detect or intercept. Do you send a manned helicopter to intercept every $1200 drone coming over the border? There will be countermeasures eventually, but right now drones seem like a pretty good solution for some situations.

(There's a thought experiment I like to consider: Could someone get a small drone in and out of a classified military installation without being detected? I think the answer is yes. They can't investigate every bird that radar picks up... More difficult is, in case they do detect it, preventing them from finding out who is responsible by defeating Gorgon Stare-style persistent large-area video surveillance--doing something so that once they check the radar tapes and figure out the launch point, they don't just rewind the surveillance video a few hours and see you getting out of your car with a drone.)
posted by jjwiseman at 1:53 PM on January 22, 2015


Also, the cartels don't always pay their engineers.
posted by jjwiseman at 1:55 PM on January 22, 2015


2 seconds of Googling tells me you are wrong by 21 years.

Well shoot, you got me. I meant via drone.
posted by stbalbach at 2:13 PM on January 22, 2015


So because of this thread, I had a scratch piece of paper trying to figure out the street value of 6 pounds of meth based on known pricing by ounce/eight-balls/quarters, using that language.

And of course somebody called and work got busy and I just realized that paper has been sitting out in plain sight on my desk all afternoon. We'll see how that works out for me.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:26 PM on January 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


So... this must be a trial balloon to bring in the Predators for domestic use, I guess? Every other bit of military tech is already in use by the cops and SWAT teams. "Clearly the solution is a good guy with a gun drone."
posted by RedOrGreen at 2:36 PM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


There is a well documented effect that took place in the middle ages, both on a personal as well as on a siege level; An arms race, where some clever inventor would come up with a better armor, and it would be invincible until some other clever inventor would come up with a better steel spike or crossbow or bullet. Eventually weapons became so efficient that there really was no armor that could protect against the weapons being fielded and the entire way armies fought had to be changed.

This is that.

The defenders here are always going to lose eventually. They'll make small gains with things like radio frequency jamming or some sort of anti-drone defense, but then, anything they come up with will eventually be used against their own drones.

The trick is to not engage in incremental improvements, but to resolve the problem at its source. End the drug war. We've reached a point where the cartels are using stealth submarines and drones. We have absolutely no chance at stopping drugs coming in any more than the prohibitionists were able to stop people from drinking.

Also, it seems to be that a quad-rotor drone wouldn't be ideal for this; unless... you send it up as a payload under some weather balloons, once they reach the right altitude the balloons drop the payload which uses GPS to guide fins on the payload to put it more or less on target, then about 1,000 feet up, it opens a parachute to slow to decent, and at 300 feet, it turns on the rotors to bring it in exactly on target.

This would give you a vastly larger range and pretty much everything could be bought off the shelf.

Hmm, maybe I should become a narco-crime-lord. That could be fun and look good on a resume.
posted by quin at 2:37 PM on January 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


bitdamaged: "yeah but much higher bandwidth on the tunnel..."

But that bandwidth is all concentrated in one spot; makes it a lot easier to find. UAVs can land pretty much anywhere.

Devonian: "And if they're not, then one thing we do know how to do is muck up GPS on demand in very localised areas. Not something you want to do or can be at all cavalier about, but it's most certainly an option."

They'd be able to switch to pure inertial guidance (or heck a plain compass) for the short trip over the border. Americans aren't going to stand for a GPS degradation that would significantly impact drones (it's official policy that selective availability won't be turned back on). Even if they would the cartels could switch to GLONASS or shortly Galileo or BDS (or even a combination with or without ground based stations).
posted by Mitheral at 2:49 PM on January 22, 2015


high-value targets currently reliant on security cordons

Does this mean they're going to become reliant on security condors?
posted by NMcCoy at 3:17 PM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


LOL the moment I heard this story, I thought about a performance art piece by Chris Burden called "Coals to Newcastle."
posted by charlie don't surf at 3:23 PM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Those of you who are arguing about the first recorded incidence of drugs falling from the sky are way off in your timetables. Any fan of pop music could tell you:
Every time it rains, it rains
Bennies from Heaven..
posted by Nerd of the North at 3:39 PM on January 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Luis in the Sky with meth Drones?
posted by Renoroc at 3:47 PM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Rule 420: if it moves and it can carry drugs, it will be used to carry drugs.
posted by edmz at 3:49 PM on January 22, 2015


Ding-dang ole flling flam HANK, we got buzzed.
posted by clavdivs at 3:54 PM on January 22, 2015


This is a wonderful comment but the fact that it took us 12 minutes to get here makes me feel like we are slipping.

I can't believe I'm the first with... Swayze drone.
posted by No Robots at 5:02 PM on January 22, 2015


You can jam all the GPSs - they're all on much the same frequency - locally, and if you follow the various advisories there are a few warnings that GPS will be unavailable in such-and-such an area at such-and-such a time due to 'exercises' and the like. The military have a lot of expertise at denying GPS to the bad guys while keeping it for themselves. But it's not simple.

Navigating cheaply without GPS is not simple either. You can just fly north (or whatever direction you like) but that doesn't do you much good if there's any wind.

I've been poking around to try and find other areas where small UAVs are doing naughty things, and - bless their cotton socks - the North Koreans are at it with various bits of their hardware falling out of the sky from time to time. I particularly like the South Korean who found one and nicked the memory card for his camera... The South Korean government are buying in a British radar from a company called - rather splendidly - Blighter, who specialise in border monitoring systems that can detect small things close to the ground.
posted by Devonian at 5:09 PM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


All true. However you just need to fly northish long enough to get out an interdiction zone at which point you can re-orient and proceed to your destination. People are going to freak out if GPS stops working as any sort of regular thing. It's become an essential service which is why they aren't messing with it any more.
posted by Mitheral at 7:18 PM on January 22, 2015


The story says it's a "Spreading Wings S900 model "drone carrying 6.5lbs of drugs. That claims to weigh just 3.3kg, the S900 has a maximum takeoff weight of 8.2kg, so it seems within its capacity. It doesn't sound like any aeronautical engineers have built a custom model in this case, it sounds like they bought something off the shelf.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 10:01 PM on January 22, 2015


...resolve the problem at its source. End the drug war.

I agree with your reasoning that persistence and technology and lots of cash means that this part of the drug war is unwinnable. What does "end the drug war" mean though? If you stop policing the flow of drugs from Mexico without some other community effort to integrate the cartel folks into a regulatory relationship, how is that going to affect the US? How are you going to balance the wage differences between Mexico and the US that drive the drug import business? Otherwise, Mexican cartels continue to impose their externalities on Americans, and you're trading enforcement costs for future health care liability. (Not counting the murders and various drones falling out of the sky.)
posted by sneebler at 2:44 AM on January 23, 2015


I don't think it is wage differences that are driving the import business but rather the regulatory structure that makes it less risky to manufacture abroad. Most recreational drugs are dirt cheap to manufacture in bulk.
posted by Mitheral at 4:11 AM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


If you stop policing the flow of drugs from Mexico without some other community effort to integrate the cartel folks into a regulatory relationship, how is that going to affect the US?

You don't.

You legalize drugs, and then produce them legally within the US. You tell the cartels to fuck off.
posted by ymgve at 5:13 AM on January 23, 2015


The number of drones dropping crates of whisky out of the sky is, regrettably, very low.
posted by Devonian at 6:55 AM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


That's because my master drone SNATCHES them from the sky.
posted by maxsparber at 6:59 AM on January 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Speaking of whiskey, I saw an advert for Coldcock Whiskey earlier, which seems like an ill-advised choice of names.
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:54 AM on January 23, 2015


Speaking of whiskey, I saw an advert for Coldcock Whiskey earlier, which seems like an ill-advised choice of names.

Yeah. "Brewer's Droop Whiskey" was still available.
posted by yoink at 9:04 AM on January 23, 2015


You legalize drugs, and then produce them legally within the US.

Call me crazy, but bringing this predatory industry (see Big Tobacco) and its future health costs into your country doesn't seem like a great step forward. I thought meth addiction was already a problem? I'm not against legalization of things, but it needn't be the default solution... I need to stop droning on about this.
posted by sneebler at 9:10 AM on January 23, 2015


The predatory industry and health costs are already in our country. By decriminalizing drugs and treating addiction as a health issue, we solve several problems while concentrating on others that are more tractable. Oh, and with the side benefit of not throwing entire generations of young people of color into jail.

Which means it'll never happen.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:13 AM on January 23, 2015


Call me crazy, but bringing this predatory industry (see Big Tobacco) and its future health costs into your country doesn't seem like a great step forward. I thought meth addiction was already a problem?

Okay, it's a problem. Is the right answer to force meth addicts to deal with criminals potentially selling them tainted product? Alcoholism is also a problem, should we ban alcohol?

FWIW, something like 20 million people get prescriptions for daily amphetamine use a year in the us.
posted by empath at 9:14 AM on January 23, 2015


I'm with you in principle. I just think there are some steps missing:

1. End the drug war
2. Profit
3. Legalize meth & cocaine

I know this^ is a straw man, but I'm wondering if "end the drug war" is really a possibility given the legislative inertia around social issues we don't particularly want to face?
posted by sneebler at 9:28 AM on January 23, 2015


"Some day we will watch a live stream of a police drone chasing a drug smuggling drone, shot from a news drone, and that day will be awesome." --@gaberivera
posted by kliuless at 1:32 PM on January 23, 2015


My feeling is that, sooner or later, drone aircraft will go the same direction as amateur radio and become a licensed hobby with responsibility and penalties for nuisance put on the operator. Likely that will include no-fly zones, and multi-million dollar investment in StingRay-like technology for identifying unlicensed operators. Or not even a StingRay, just put the receivers onto the cell tower network since we can put the ability to triangulate radio sources on a chip. (In news of the scary, Ars just noted that the ability to put a hidden device into practically any standard USB plug is now sold publicly, rather than just government contractors.)

Which won't be total interdiction but that's not the point. The point is security theater to justify throwing millions of dollars at the problem since domestic law enforcement is a key consumer for the military industrial complex.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 3:45 PM on January 23, 2015


I've read estimates that Law Enforcement's interdiction rate of the drug supply is single digit percentage of the total. With a 90-plus percent failure rate, giving up is the logical choice.

You have read of a seizure of a great quantity of drugs at a border but you have never read of a great shortage of any drug anywhere. In the last few decades of this war, drug distribution has increased, the variety of drugs has increased, and the quality of drugs has increased. Every dealer ever arrested has been immediately replaced.

Giving up completely, today, on interdiction seems crazy until you realize that the last few decades prove that supply side reduction is not possible. Demand side reduction is possible but that is social services and many are committed ideologically to militaristic "solutions". There is no legitimate debate about the failure of the War On People Who Use Drugs.
posted by llc at 8:25 PM on January 23, 2015


The only time a drug enforcement action ever seemed to have an impact on the market was the big LSD bust in the late 90s that wiped out all the LSD distribution channels, at least on the east coast.
posted by empath at 8:36 PM on January 23, 2015


Thanks empath. I didn't know what the effect of that bust was. LSD is difficult to manufacture and not very popular so I guessed a replacement manufacturer did not come on-line quickly. Since use of LSD is not likely to cause problems, Law Enforcement's one success was a bust.
posted by llc at 9:12 PM on January 23, 2015




« Older Don't Try Too Hard to Please Twitter   |   Tarnished Silver Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments