Drone Terror: New Age in Mexican Drug Cartel Warfare

The use of drones by Mexican drug cartels marks a significant evolution in the tactics of drug warfare, showcasing the changing landscape of conflict and the role of technology. This transformation is driven by the development of cheaper and aerial UAVs, which have broken the traditional aerial hegemony of nation-states, making the skies accessible to all, including insurgent and criminal groups.

The Emergence of Drone Violence in Mexico

In the Southern state of Guerrero, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) and La Familia Michoacán have employed drones in violent attacks, causing civilian displacement and fear. These drones, modified from commercial models, are often equipped with explosives, such as C-4, and ball bearings to act as shrapnel, maximizing damage. Videos circulating online reveal the destructive potential of these drone attacks, such as one where Sinaloa cartel members drop explosives on CJNG members.


The Evolution of Drone Usage in Criminal Activities

The use of drones by criminal groups in Mexico dates back to around 2010, initially for surveillance purposes. Since then, their application has expanded to include smuggling drugs, counter-offensive operations against state forces, and civilian displacement through aerial bombardments.

Drone Terror: New Age In Mexican Drug Cartel Warfare

Drones as Tools of Psychological Warfare and Propaganda

Despite the violent capabilities of drones, the number of drone-related deaths in remains relatively low. The primary use of drones is often for surveillance or as a tool of psychological warfare against the public and rival groups. This tactic is akin to a modern form of terror, where the fear and display of sophisticated power are more critical than their effectiveness as killing machines.

Cartels reportedly use drones to build an image of power, often showcased in propaganda videos on social media. These videos typically feature masked men, illegal firearms, and armored vehicles, reinforcing the perception of a sophisticated military wing within the cartels.

The Future of Drone Technology in Cartel Warfare

Drones represent a new facet in the spectacle of violence, enhancing the cartels' image of dominance in both land and air. While their current use in Mexico's conflict is somewhat limited, there is potential for their role to become more sophisticated in terms of weaponry and surveillance capabilities. This advancement in drone technology may lead to an expanded use beyond surveillance, especially in regions with clear territorial conflicts between organizations.

The incorporation of drones into cartel tactics is a testament to the adaptability and innovation within criminal organizations. As technology continues to advance, the role of drones in warfare, both in Mexico and globally, is poised to grow, challenging traditional methods of conflict and law enforcement. This development underscores the need for innovative strategies to counter the evolving landscape of the modern drug war.

Photo courtesy of Talking Drugs.

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Haye Kesteloo
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of DroneXL.co, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and EVXL.co, for all news related to electric vehicles. He is also a co-host of the PiXL Drone Show on YouTube and other podcast platforms. Haye can be reached at haye @ dronexl.co or @hayekesteloo.

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