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Assistant Community Editor

Drug-delivery drones are more common than you’d think

Jan 22, 20152 mins

Drug dealers are becoming drone hobbyists.

Credit: Thinkstock

Today, a sure-fire viral news story broke about a drone that crashed in a parking lot near the U.S.-Mexico border while carrying more than six pounds of methamphetamine. These efforts have been spotted before, however, enough times to suggest that drug smugglers have become quite the drone hobbyists themselves.

In November 2013, the Ottawa Sun reported that the prison in Hull, Quebec, increased security after a small drone was spotted flying near the prison walls. The drone was never caught, so it was never determined whether it was carrying any contraband, but the prison staff seemed to have already gotten used to dealing with drug-carrying UAVs.

“This sort of thing happens often in prisons all across Quebec,” Stephane Lemaire, president of Quebec’s correctional officers’ union, told the Sun. “Usually the drones are carrying small packages of drugs or other illicit substances.”

In the past year or two, similar cases have been reported around prisons in Melbourne, Australia; Dublin, Ireland; Sao Paolo, Brazil; and Bishopville, South Carolina. The trend even dates as far back as 2011, when Russian authorities busted a plot to deliver 700 grams of heroin to a prison inmate with a remote-controlled helicopter.

Several reports have claimed over the past five years that drug cartels are designing and building their own drones solely for the purpose of delivery purposes, Motherboard reported in June. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given the creativity drug smugglers have shown while figuring out how to get drugs across international borders (personally, I recommend Popular Science’s roundup of interesting drug delivery tools, which includes a giant catapult built for hurling large quantities of marijuana over the U.S.-Mexico border).

So this kind of story will attract attention for now, but it won’t be long until it’s too common to care about.

Assistant Community Editor

Colin Neagle manages blogs for Network World, including but not limited to those published on the Cisco Subnet, Microsoft Subnet, and Open Source Subnet. He also writes feature articles and blog posts about emerging technologies, among other things, and he usually doesn't write about himself in the third person, so please don't judge him by this bio.