A Mexican drug cartel, the Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación, or CJNG, has been caught with a kamikaze-style drone, marking an escalation of the threat posed by the non-state actors. The drone was discovered when Mexican police arrested four men in a stolen pickup truck.
According to a report by the Washington Times, the cartels have been using drones to smuggle drugs into the United States in recent years, but this marks a move to the type of armed drones used by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The drone captured by Mexican police was equipped with an improvised explosive device and remote detonator.
An analysis by Small Wars Journal noted that the drone appeared to be a 3DR Solo quadcopter drone. This drone is available for purchase on Amazon.com for $229. Small Wars Journal reported that the takedown took place in an area of Mexico contested by multiple cartels, including the Sinaloa cartel, the Zetas, and CJNG.
The United States has been pursuing a number of counter-UAV technologies. One, the Battelle DroneDefender, can end drones running back to their home base. This could prove a nasty surprise for some bad guy using a drone with an IED. Nammo has developed programmable ammo to shoot down enemy drones. Another promising approach had been to use lasers. Last month, Lockheed and the Army tested the ATHENA laser system against five MQM-170C drones.
In any case, some of those counter-drone systems could very well find themselves being deployed on the southern border of the United States to counter the threat of cartel drones. The scary thing is, the cartels may not be the only folks using drones.