Mexican Cartels Weaponize Drones for Explosive Attacks

Mexican cartels are increasingly using drones to carry out violent attacks, both against rival gangs and the public. This alarming development was brought to light during a recent congressional hearing by Carl Landrum, a former U.S. Border Patrol official, according to the Washington Examiner.

Cartels Embrace Drone Technology for Violence

Landrum, now working for counterdrone defense company , testified that “dozens and dozens” of violent incidents in have been facilitated through unmanned aerial systems. He emphasized the gravity of the situation, stating, “These are dangerous, offensive capabilities that are being utilized by the cartels.”

Several recent incidents highlight this concerning trend:

  • In October 2023, eight Colombians were arrested in Mexico for building drones equipped with improvised explosive devices for a local narcotics smuggling gang.
  • January 2024 saw a gruesome attack on remote Mexican villages in Guerrero state, where cartel-controlled drones were responsible for the deaths of five people who were burned to death.
  • Just last week, an indigenous village in Michoacan state was attacked by drones operated by the Jalisco New Generation Cartel.

Challenges in Countering Drone Threats

Landrum pointed out that part of the problem lies in the limited availability of counterdrone technology. While the has the ability to detect drones, it faces severe limitations in its “offensive” capabilities to physically intercept and neutralize drones in flight.

Drones in Border Patrol Operations

It's worth noting that drones are not only used for nefarious purposes. In fiscal year 2022, the U.S. Border Patrol reported using its own drones to spot and intercept 51,248 illegal immigrants crossing the border. These unmanned aerial systems have become increasingly valuable for federal law enforcement agents monitoring land, air, and sea borders, providing a unique bird's-eye view of areas difficult to track on foot or by vehicle.


The weaponization of consumer drones by cartels underscores the urgent need for advanced counterdrone technologies and regulations. While drones have proven invaluable for legitimate purposes, including border surveillance and search-and-rescue operations, their potential for misuse cannot be ignored.

As the continues to innovate, it's crucial that parallel advancements are made in drone defense systems. This situation in Mexico serves as a stark reminder of the dual-use nature of and the importance of staying ahead in the technological arms race.

The drone community must work closely with law enforcement and policymakers to ensure that the benefits of drone technology are maximized while mitigating potential risks. This could involve developing more sophisticated drone detection and interception systems, as well as implementing stricter regulations on the sale and use of certain drone components.

At DroneXL, we remain committed to promoting the positive applications of drone technology while advocating for responsible use and effective countermeasures against misuse.




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