High-Flying Drug Smuggling: Drones at the Border

Drone Smuggling Operation Exposed

Two men, from and City, have been accused of using drones to transport narcotics from into the . Yong Chen and an unnamed accomplice were reportedly charged following a criminal complaint unsealed in federal court. The charges include conspiracy to import a controlled substance, importation of a controlled substance, narcotics conspiracy, and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance.

The Investigation Unfolds

The Drone's Journey

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) first noticed suspicious drone activity on September 21, 2022. The drone, departing from Youngstown, New York, flew across the border to On Seven Estate Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada. After landing briefly, it returned to a house at 4240 Wolf Run Drive in Youngstown. The drone flew without navigation lights and carried a package.

The Raid

When the drone landed, law enforcement moved in. Two suspects attempted to flee; one was captured immediately. Shortly afterward, the Niagara County Sheriff's Department responded to a call for medical assistance nearby. They found two Asian males—Chen and the unnamed defendant—who matched descriptions from the raid.

Inside the House

A federal search warrant revealed the house was minimally furnished, with only mattresses on the floor. Authorities discovered multiple commercial-grade drones, controllers, electronics, cell phones, documents, and personal items linked to the suspects. One of the drones carried a package containing nearly 3 kilograms of MDMA (commonly known as ecstasy).

Smuggling Operation Details

Repeated Cross-Border Flights

The investigation revealed the drones had completed five cross-border flights between May 10 and September 21, 2022. CBP suspects the initial flights were test runs leading up to the final trip that resulted in their capture.

Property and Connections

The house in Youngstown, purchased by “Y&L” Beauty Nail Inc. from Long Island, was bought shortly before the drone flights began. Chen claimed he worked for the beauty salon. Neither defendant has any known ties to Western New York.

Legal Proceedings

Chen's first court appearance was held on Wednesday. The U.S. Attorney's office declined to comment on the ongoing investigation.

DroneXL's Take

This case highlights the innovative and risky methods drug traffickers are using to bypass traditional security measures. Drones, with their capability to traverse difficult terrains undetected, pose a significant challenge for law enforcement. While technology continues to advance, so must the strategies and tools used to combat illegal activities. This incident underscores the importance of ongoing vigilance and adaptation in border security operations.

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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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