Drones again – and a nasty terrorism threat

It seems small unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, are again in the news – and not in a good way.

U.S. Border Patrol agents based in San Diego have spotted 15 drones flying between Tijuana, Mexico, and Southern California over the past 12 months, according to new data provided to the Washington Examiner.

Not one of the drone operators involved in those incidents was prosecuted for using an unmanned aerial system, or drone, around the international border, which is protected air space.

From Oct. 1, 2016, through Sept. 30, 2017, the same border sector reported two known incidents. In fiscal 2016, five occurred. Before then, it wasn’t even tracked.

San Diego Deputy Chief Patrol Agent Roy Villareal said his 2,200 agents have a hard enough time seeing or hearing the small aircraft at night — when they are most often flown — but intercepting them is nearly impossible. In fact, only one smuggler ever has been prosecuted in a drone incident near the border, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Between being unaware of just how widely cartels are using drones to smuggle contraband over the border and being unable to do anything when they are seen, it’s nearly impossible for agents to determine who sent the drone and then legally go after that person.

It’s also difficult to know just how great the threat is when agents are not aware of just how widespread drones are being used to spy on them from hundreds of feet above.

“Detection is our greatest weakness right now,” Villareal told the Examiner during a recent tour of the region. “It’s one of a multitude of threats we have, but I think it’s going to grow … simply because of the inability to intercept [them].”

The person flying a drone can stand a few hundred feet or a couple miles away. He or she can operate the drone with a remote control or input instructions and let the drone operate without a guide. Either way, the owner is able to avoid being captured by U.S. federal law enforcement while smuggling drugs, money, firearms, or other items between countries.

Because drones are small, they typically carry a few ounces to a few pounds of higher-priced drugs.

Villareal said the devices could be used to carry out a massive attack on the public. Someone looking to carrying out a terror attack could plant synthetic fentanyl on the drone and release it over a group of people. Just three tiny grains of the strongest fentanyl being smuggled into the U.S. is enough to put a person in a coma and a small baggie full of the substance would have devastating effects.

“It’s the perfect criminal tool,” Villareal said. “A single pound of fentanyl [dropped above a crowd] would devastate a whole stadium.”

Federal law enforcement officers and agents do not have any tools for detecting a drone outside of their eyes and ears. Even if they do spot a drone that appears to be carrying drugs, they can’t shoot it down with their gun. Counterdrone tools exist in the private sector but have not yet been approved for agents to use, leaving them helpless to do anything.

There’s more at the link.

That terrorist threat is enough to send shivers down anyone’s spine.  Fentanyl – or, worse yet, carfentanil, the so-called “elephant tranquilizer” – is phenomenally dangerous stuff.  A lethal dose of fentanyl is 2-3 milligrams, so one kilogram (2.2 pounds) of the drug, dispersed by a drone, would dispense 333,333 lethal doses.  A lethal dose of carfentanyl is only 20 micrograms, meaning a single kilogram dispersed by a drone would dispense fifty million lethal doses.  Even if ninety per cent of the drug was blown away by the wind, just ten per cent of it landing among a crowd in a sports stadium could cause so many fatalities that 9/11 would seem like a mere bagatelle in comparison.

I hope this never happens . . . but given the known association between terrorists and Mexican drug cartels, I’m afraid it’s an all too real possibility.



  1. "Unpossible! And besides, hobby drones could really only carry 150,000 lethal doses! So Double Unpossible!" – No Points For Guessing Who

  2. There are companies out there selling drone detection and area denial systems, so all is not lost. The drone needs a transmitter to return image or location data to the controller and that broadcast can be detected, localized, and tracked.

    http://www.dedrone.com has more info on current and public commercial anti-drone capabilities. I would imagine the military has far more advanced systems.

  3. If the Cartels are stupid enough to aid in attacking the US in any such manner, Mexico will pay a steep price, along with loosing a good chunk of their northern land for a large "no go" buffer zone. Sanctuary type US politicians may also cease to exist as a result of the blowback.

  4. Anything can be used as a weapon. That doesn't mean they will be, at least on any appreciable scale. The cartels have been using remote control planes for decades.

    You can deliver drugs, explosives, or poison with model rockets, too. All this has been done. Doesn't mean we have to put Estes out of business.

    You want to control the border? The only way is to militarize it. Build the wall. Put in guard towers with belt fed weapons. Put in air defense artillery to shoot down drones. Or just conquer and clear the northernmost 20 miles of Mexico, and then patrol it like the Korean DMZ.

  5. The drug cartels are not going to attack their primary market. They might be violent, unscrupulous businessmen. But they are businessmen.

    Instead of Carfentanil, how about LSD-25?

  6. I remember reading a long time ago that a group of hippies in the late 60's wanted to spike all of the world's drinking water supply with LSD-25 in order to "turn on" the whole world. I can imagine someone trying this with drones instead.

    Having read Eric Berne's "Transactional Analysis", it is quite clear to me that the youth movements of the late 60's as well as the Millennial leftist of today are simply the manifestation of child ego-states running unchecked. Their adult and parent ego-states did not properly form during their teen age years like they should have. In the case of the boomers, it was due simply to the fact they were the first mass generation to grow up with mass industrial abundance. The case with the Millennials is their helicopter parents doing everything for them so they never acquired any sense of self-reliance that is the usual hallmark of adolescence.

  7. "The drug cartels are not going to attack their primary market. They might be violent, unscrupulous businessmen. But they are businessmen."

    And that affects how Islamo-crazies will act and what means they'll use…how exactly, professor? Just curious.

    Mexican cartels aren't crazy.
    Islamic terrorists are.
    Therefore, ___________________________________.

    Complete the syllogism, if you please.

  8. Not so onboard with the rush to judgement. There are a lot of nice people out there. The predators call them dupes. Asian countries have no bar to hanging dupes of the drug trade. I protest. There are actually a lot of people who are really really slow. 5 year olds take advantage of them. Let us cling to western civilization for as long as we can before we go down into the dark. Let's use a judge, a jury and evidence of mal.

  9. It just HAS to be true, because Pete linked to an article in the mainstream media – and Aesop starts shouting at clouds if anyone laughs! 🙂

    So far I’ve seen a few obviously disturbed chuckle heads arrested in ATTEMPTS at criminal activity with drones. They never seem to succeed at any of the Machiavellian plots they hatch. I’ve seen some stock photos of toys that won’t lift ‘a couple pounds’ never mind the heavy ordnance required to wage war or terrorism. But I HAVE seen quite a few poorly done videos with CG graphics used to instill panic and terror in gobbling rage heads like Aesop! HAR HAR HAR!

    Why, the DEA should be so lucky if the drug trade were limited to drones to transport product! Trafficking would cease to be a problem overnight! Also, hobby drones are almost always limited to line of sight operation. If you can see the drone, chances are the pilot is within a couple hundred yards. You will almost certainly be able to see him too. And no, long range hobby drones won’t be carrying meaningful payloads either. They are even more limited by weight concerns. These toys are fragile, they rely on cheap Chinese electronics, and they obey the laws of physics. If you want to lift meaningful payloads, you will need a vehicle the size of an airplane or helicopter. If you want to fly it with any precision at long range, you WILL need avionics with sensor suites that are beyond your average hobbyists, thugs, and rag heads.

    Ladies, if these things were viable weapons with serious payload capacity, WE would be using them. About the only credible threat they DO pose, is that they give the bad guys eyes in the sky. But when you consider that the cartels and terrorists have allies embedded in the judiciary, media, govt and law enforcement… you’ll forgive me if I feel we have far bigger threats to our public safety and national security.

    But don’t let any of this dissuade you from polishing this turd, ladies. The comedy is top shelf! 🙂

  10. A big problem with border defense against drones is what happens to the misses, while I'm not opposed to blowing a few holes in Mexico to encourage them to reduce the drone launches I see problems with that attitude in real life. It is more of an issue if the holes are being made on our side of the border.

    So maybe all these fancy laser weapons will find a purpose even if they can't knock down harder targets drones should be easy pickings.

  11. "if these things were viable weapons with serious payload capacity, WE would be using them."

    More Wile E. Soopergenius levels of analysis on the subject.

    This of course explains why IEDs and VBIEDs are such a non-problem, because we don't use them either.

    Get right on contacting the Pentagon with that epiphany, after you crawl over the thousands of troops with shiny new prosthetic limbs from that non-problem.

    Such brilliant thinking also overlooks that with a budget approaching trillions of dollars, we aren't limited to cobbling together off-the-shelf weapons systems, because we're not a criminal or terrorist cartel operating out of a warehouse in some Turd World Trashcanistan.

    It also overlooks the century or more of weapon selection idiocy from our military, ranging from the brilliant choices against buying repeating rifles and Maxim machineguns back in the day, to such modern wondrous boondoggles as the TFX, the F-35 Thunderjug, the LCS, and the floating disasterpiece that is the USS Ford.

    This puts our resident self-appointed authority into the pantheon of greatness which gave us such military pronouncements as

    "There are no American tanks in Baghdad!"
    "A million men fighting a thousand years could never take this island."
    "They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance."

    This is truly top-shelf comedy there, just not in the way you meant. You might want to stop reading and believing your own press releases, and reconsider you self-awarded papal infallibility on this topic, which has holes in it about a mile wide at this point. But at least you've got predictable consistency going for you.

    When you're in such a deep hole, you might wish to stop digging.

    Just a thought.

  12. LOL. This old bint wraps herself up in the flag, likens toy drones to serious IED's – and accuses me of crapping on the vets. Aesop, if you had 30 more IQ points, you'd be a liberal and you'd call me a racist/homophobe/sexist/fascist! HAR HAR HAR!!! Tell ya what, Spanky: if you can find ONE disabled vet that owes his injuries to toy drones (drones, not IED's) – I will make my apologies and concede the point. Note though, that yellow journalism isn't proof.

    Even if these drones could do what you say they can do (and they can't, sensationalist media morons be damned) – what's stopping Achmed Abu-Al Fuknuk-Al from slipping an explosive device into your fanny pack along with all your mental medication – and sending you doddering off to a ball game? Or leaving a weapon like that in a garbage can, or an empty seat, or what have you? If you neurotic old women are going to terrorize yourselves, for the love of God – at least put some effort into it?

    You are in no more danger than you've ever been.

  13. Since you've got nothing but ad hominem, you deserve a reply in kind.

    No, geenyus, I didn't accuse you of crapping on vets (basic reading comprehension not a strong suit either, I see), I said you're a blockhead on the order of the stupidest of military knuckleheads (and I may have underestimated you at that), going back to the guy in Troy who decided bringing that horse inside the city gates was a good idea.

    I also pointed out the glaring failure of your simpleton "logic" in equating drones as a non-problem with being exactly like equating IEDs as a non-problem, "because we're not using them". (Still struggling with grasping that concept too, are we?)

    I didn't say anyone had lost a limb to a drone-borne IED, which your grade-school mental capabilities cleverly misunderstand, even now.
    Maybe try moving your lips as you read the words typed, if you aren't doing that already. It can't hurt, and it might help.

    So either the English language art is one that's foreign to you, or common sense and reading comprehension are, but it's certainly one or the other. There is no third option. You've proven, beyond dispute, your inability to help yourself, along with a marked proclivity to pull your own pants down, spank your cheeks for amusement, and then defecate all over someone else's blog because you don't know any better, on a topic upon which you're a self-declared legend in your own mind. Well played. The internet has certainly never seen that anywhere before.

    And as you completely missed the point of the post, the question this time wasn't regarding putting bombs anywhere, it was the utility of dropping lethal substances in common availability from altitude, causing not a dozen casualties, but hundreds or thousands. You know, like terrorists have done since, oh, ever. Perhaps you've read about that? Beuller? Ferris Beuller…?

    You're still trying to improve on the Chechen idiots' Boston pressure cooker clownshow, and the post was concerned with the current crop of killers graduating to replicating Verdun and Ypres. So maybe stop thinking like a clown, and start thinking like you had a brain. Forty or fifty years of that, and it might get to be a habit, even for you. I like to think that anything's possible, even in such seemingly hopeless cases, but that's the inner optimist.

    You lack the wit God gave the common jackass, or the apprehension to recognize that you've been beaten like a rented mule, times without number, every time you attempt some amateur jibe, and your flashes of brilliance are naught but flashes in the pan. If that wasn't crystal clear for you, perhaps you could have someone read it to you out loud. Maybe with drawings, like Pictionary.

    Go back under your bridge where you belong, where no one listens, because no one else goes there. All you bring here are things better sent circling the bowl after a tug on the handle of the porcelain plumbing convenience, and you're not yet tall enough for this part of the internet. Exactly as implied from the first response.

    Thanks for living up to all my expectations, and then surpassing them.
    You make every point I did, and then you underline them in your own blood. Bravo!

    I have to think, at this point, that Peter is posting these occasional updates to simultaneously prove them while trolling you, and you play your part magnificently.

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