Air Traffic Control: How Mexican Cartels are Utilizing Drones to Track Narcotics into the United States (Excerpt)
Drone usage has been a topic of significant debate in recent years.1 The use of drones has fostered discussions regarding their privacy implications,2 public safety concerns,3 and even their use to conduct military airstrikes in foreign nations.4 However, a unique trend is emerging regarding drone use that raises novel policy concerns: recent reports have concluded that drones are now being used as a method of trafficking narcotics from Mexico into the United States.5
While Mexican cartels have been known to utilize creative methods when smuggling narcotics,6 the new method of using drones has important implications for a number of reasons.7 Notably, drones are a rapidly growing industry with the potential to significantly impact the economy. Domestic use of drones in the United States is predicted to have an economic impact of over $82 billion between 2015 and 2025.8 The demand for drones is consistently increasing among recreational users9 and businesses,10 causing a steady rise in their supply as well. While supply and demand continues to increase, the lack of drone regulations in the United States and Mexico is a cause for concern. Further, those regulations that currently exist do not account for the use of drones as trafficking tools at the border. It is thus unsurprising that cartels are beginning to utilize drones to traffic narcotics from Mexico into the United States.
Given the fact that the U.S.-Mexican border extends approximately 1,933 miles,11 and that the cartels have used drones to traffic narcotics an estimated 150 times per year,12 there is a dire need for a solution to this tactic before it becomes more prevalent. This comment will focus on the rising use of drones at the border to smuggle narcotics into the United States, and suggest possible solutions to curb this new tactic being utilized by the cartels. By taking steps to solve this problem before it becomes more recurrent, the United States can hinder the use of drones as an efficient method to smuggle narcotics across the border, and in doing so, decrease the influx of narcotics trafficked into the United States. This comment will also compare the current drone regulations of Mexico and the United States with those from various other countries, and discuss how such policies can be implemented at the United States-Mexico border.
Part I of this comment has served as an introduction to the issue. Part II will briefly discuss the current state of the war on drugs at the border and how the United States and Mexico are working together to prevent the trafficking of narcotics by Mexican cartels. Part III will examine the current state of drone regulations in the United States and Mexico. Together, Parts II and III provide a background that exposes the severity of the issue of drones as trafficking tools. Finally, Part IV proposes possible solutions to prevent Mexican cartels from using drones to traffic narcotics. This section will also discuss drone regulations in several other countries, and which policies, if any, should be adopted and implemented at the border.