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When the enemy is better than you

It was just a few weeks ago. News that does not hit the American airwaves. During a routine operation, Mexican police were clearing blockades when suddenly a drone flew over dropping gunpowder bombs wounding two members of the Michoacán state police. There’s a threat that is emerging rapidly in the battle against the cartels and that threat is something that I spoke about at a drone conference over 5 years ago…weaponized drones. I remember the day clearly as I stood on the stage in front of a group of perhaps 80 and stated that the day would be here within 5 years that everything good about a drone would also become everything bad about a drone. Cartels such as the bloody and powerful Jalisco New Generation Cartel, or CJNG, and its rival Cárteles Unidos, have upgraded their arsenals by using drones to bomb enemies, posing a growing threat to Mexican and U.S. citizens and allowing more drugs to flow into the United States. Cheap, easy-to-order Drones are part of the cartels' larger strategy to achieve their aims by arming themselves like rogue militaries. There is little a $500 drone cannot do that a helicopter can do, in fact, their size and almost-soundless flight make them more efficient. Should one be shot down? Another can be ordered on Amazon and, if you have Prime, shipping is free. You are back up and running in less than a week. Pilots are cheap and easy to come by as well in a world where young children are born with a joystick in hand and can easily navigate for the cartels leaving higher ranking officers within the organization free to operate without risk. While the political climate still causes authorities to cringe when pushed to designate cartels as terrorist organizations, organizations such as the CJNG are strapping weapons to yet more drones in order to control and terrorize populations. In a recent interview with a drone operator working for Cárteles Unidos, the claim was made that Cárteles Unidos has about 100 drones in use at present with an organized system of training for pilots. No longer is it necessary to risk running weapons across a border when drones come legally through the United States and across the border as Cartels use legitimate monies to make the purchases. While companies like Autel, FoxFury and TacSwan are designing ways to carry medical payloads, add searchlights and thermal cameras, the cartels already have designed several intricate attachments so their drones can carry relatively large payloads of weapons, explosives and drugs. These capabilities are being used on a daily basis to thwart the efforts of CBP’s war on drug smuggling, but it goes further than that. Weaponized drones now are being used to terrorize populations, to track and do surveillance and even are being used to wage bloody wars against each other. While the payload ability is still relatively low, new tech is emerging everyday and there is no doubt the cartels will be using it. Let’s face it, American EMS is still not using drones to drop AED’s which weigh about 4 pounds like the Philips HeartStart, but last year CBP grabbed a narcodrone drop of 28.55 pounds of heroin with a street value of $1.5 Million! We are falling behind, and the future is bleak. The concern now is that cartels are working harder than we are and will soon figure out how to make these machines deadlier; the Mexican authorities are already busting houses in the south where they are finding drones and C-4 together. History tells me that we won’t catch up unless we begin to prioritize differently and begin to partner faster and smarter with manufacturers and innovators. The “war on drugs” dates back to the 1970’s and I am not saying that it is not evolving at all, but we are obviously our worst enemy. Biden has stated that it was a “mistake” to support legislation that ramped up the drug war and increased incarceration, including the '94 crime bill, when he was in the U.S. Senate. He now says we need a compassionate approach to problematic drug use. While I applaud any effort to address the America’s drug addiction, it is realistically beyond our capability to quell the demand for product at this time and we had better figure out a way to adopt new tech and operate faster like our enemies before we find ourselves at the mercy of children’s toys in the hands of terrorists.

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