Mexico grapples to counter the violent deployment of drones in regions where organized crimes fight to assert control, eliciting significant public concern regarding their safety and right to privacy. According to the Ministry of National Defense (SEDENA), Mexico has experienced 605 drone-related attacks since 2020, with the majority of incidents occurring in Guerrero, Michoacan and Tamaulipas, states that are fiercely contested by criminal factions.
The Ballistics Industry Council in Mexico (CNB) issued a warning to the federal government highlighting the alarming use of drones by criminal enterprises. These criminal entities employ drones for drug smuggling operations, clandestine transportation of contraband into correctional facilities and surveillance of law enforcement agencies. More recently, they are also using them to disable computer systems and extract confidential information. The versatile criminal applications of drones underscore the pressing need for comprehensive measures to address the growing challenges posed by rogue drone usage in Mexico.
In response to escalating violence, the council stated that it will: “continue to foster and strengthen partnerships with public and private security institutions to disseminate valuable information and leverage their knowledge and expertise…for [augmented] protection and defense.”
However, recent reports from the SEDENA indicate an alarming surge in drone use by organized crime. In 2020, only five drone attacks were identified, followed by 107 in 2021, then 233 in 2022 and 260 in 2023, constituting a 5,200% increase in criminal drone incidents since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The drastic escalation of drone criminal activity signals a growing challenge for law enforcement agencies.
To counter the illicit use of drones in Mexico, SEDENA acquired six anti-drone systems in November 2021, representing a critical step toward bolstering national security. In recognition of safeguarding strategic locations, SEDENA also invested MX$5.49 million (US$304,398) to acquire Oner’s anti-drone system to guard the National Palace in Mexico City against potential drone attacks. Oner’s technology specializes in signal inhibitors, which can significantly bolster the country's defense capabilities by disrupting communication between drones and their operators.
"The global drone market is experiencing substantial growth, with projected revenues reaching €20.98 million (US$22.01 million) by the end of this year. It [i]s anticipated to sustain an annual growth rate of 6.36% until 2028. However, the advantages of drone technology are diminishing due to its exploitation by organized crime," cautions the CNB.
Exemplifying the dangerous nature of drone attacks, the community of Nuevo Poblado el Caracol in Guerrero became the target of six separate drone assaults armed with explosives in August. These attacks were orchestrated by the Familia Michoacana cartel against rival cartel Los Tlacos in an effort to assert its control over the region for drug-trafficking purposes. These incidents underscore the need for continued collaboration between government agencies, private entities and technology providers to develop effective countermeasures.