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A tiny DJI drone smuggled its own weight in drugs over the US border wall

A tiny DJI drone smuggled its own weight in drugs over the US border wall

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The DEA wants to search it

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Photo by Ryan Loughlin

If you’ve ever wondered whether drug dealers might just fly packets of powder over the border wall with inexpensive consumer drones, wonder no more — the US Border Patrol caught a DJI Mini 2 dead to rights dropping off its own weight in meth last October.

That’s according to a recently released search warrant from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which is trying to search the drone for evidence that might help them track down the pilot.

On October 7th, according to the affidavit, Tecate’s Campo Border Patrol Station radioed that a drone was spotted flying over the 25-foot-high fence. An agent spotted the drone buzzing over a parking lot just the other side of the wall; watched it land; watched a grey Mercedes roll up with a man ready to collect the goods; then intercepted the drone before the driver could pick it up.

The bundle contained a package filled with 0.57 pounds (259g) of methamphetamine, more than you might think a 249g DJI Mini 2 can carry on its own. But for a short hop over a 25-foot border wall to a parking lot just the other side, it’s actually quite feasible — multiple videos show the DJI Mini 2 can lift double its own weight for a short time.

The drone landed in one of the parking lots visible here, just north of the Tecate border.
The drone landed in one of the parking lots visible here, just north of the Tecate border.
Image: Google Maps

It’s not clear from the search warrant whether Chinese drone manufacturer DJI will be asked to share information about the user who flew the drone — for now, it sounds like the agent is simply asking to do some data forensics on the drone and its microSD card.

He says flights like this are common: “In this area, it is common for human / narcotics smuggling organizations to use drones to fly over the boundary fence and assist and / or facilitate their criminal operations in the United States.” There are one-off reports going back years about failed drone drug deliveries near the border, but usually, the drone pictures are older, larger models. A would-be drug-running DJI Mini drone was seized last September in Costa Mesa, California, though, when a man was “suspected of using a drone in an attempt to smuggle drugs” into an Orange County jail.