Amazon promises drone-delivered packages in the future. Drug smugglers in Tijuana are making this a reality even faster, although not without their own hiccups.
Yesterday, Tijuana police announced the recovery of a crashed hexacopter carrying six packages of crystal meth.
The flying rig, a DJI S900 hexacopter designed to carry high-end video equipment for television and commercial purposes, was discovered in a supermarket parking lot in Tijuana’s Zona de Río, along the US border just south of San Diego. It is a class of multicopter typically flown manually, with the pilot controlling route and position rather than using pre-programmed, waypoint following, although the S900 does offer the autonomous capabilities.
The S900 product page describes the craft as being capable of carrying 15 pounds of cargo for 18 minutes. The police report states that each of the six drug packets weighed three pounds, and speculates that the crash occurred due to the excess cargo weight.
The concept of drug-smuggling drones have been discussed for some time, and have likely existed for nearly as long. (The Associated Press reports that a Tijuana police spokesperson states that this isn’t their first drone recovery). Along with the under-construction submarine discovered in the Colombian jungle and the drug-launching trebuchet spotted at Mexico-California border fence, it shows the groups’ willingness to experiment with technology and innovative drug delivery methods.
Despite numerous examples of groups and individuals using UAVs for beneficial purposes (everything from Hollywood aerial videography to finding missing persons to policing poachers of endangered species), there is still a fair amount of concern and speculation of how these small, easy-to-fly craft can be used for malicious purposes. But some groups, including Matternet, are working to bring legitimate medical drug delivery to impoverished and hard-to-reach areas.
(Hat tip: Ars Technica)