The Department of Homeland Security and FBI identified this week unmanned aerial systems, or drones, as one of the greatest national security threats to America — rating it as severe a concern as cybersecurity hacks, critical infrastructure attacks, and terrorism.
While drones are often thought of as techie toys, officials are becoming increasingly worried about the threat they pose and are warning it’s only a matter of time until the devices are used to drop a bomb or fentanyl powder on people in a populated area. Drones are already used by transnational criminal syndicates and drug cartels. The technology is readily available to terrorist groups.
Incidents that have gained public attention in recent years have largely involved inexperienced fliers losing control of the aircraft, but the military and law enforcement officers are already dealing with cases of drones being used for illicit purposes.
Border Patrol agents and port officers belonging to the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency are dealing with drones being used as airborne spies.
On the U.S.-Mexico border, drones are already being used to spy on federal law enforcement operations and smuggle contraband through the sky. The first drug smuggling incident via drone was documented in Nov. 2015. Now, it’s a daily occurrence in some regions of the southern border, but it’s rarely reported because CBP is unable to seize the devices. Arrests are rare.
A CBP spokesman told the Washington Examiner that Border Patrol agents based in California’s San Diego sector see drones fly over the international boundary every night. The drones, which range from a few ounces to a few pounds, take off from Mexico’s Baja California state and buzz over agents stationed near the border at up to 50 miles per hour. The cover of darkness and the high speeds the drones can fly at make it nearly impossible for agents to shoot them down, even if they were allowed to use their firearms.
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