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Drug cartel assassinates its enemies with bomb-toting drones (thedrive.com)
246 points by eplanit 52 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 354 comments



As I read the article, there was not actually a single confirmed death by explosive armed drone.

I suspect that ultimately it’s likely impractical To kill people by drone as compared, on a cost basis, to other more pedestrian means of killing people.

Drones may be cheap, but drones that can lift more than 2 kilos aren’t. The logistics of getting a drone near enough to the intended target to kill them are going to be hard. While the “cool” factor is high, I suspect guns, bombs, hard men, threats and bribes are more efficient.


High value targets will justify expenditure of more resources. For most targets a few men with AK-47s might do the trick, but for the well protected target this would be a pretty decent strategy.

It certainly would strike fear into the hearts of men otherwise protected against more pedestrian threats, which is probably part of the point.


This is exactly how drones were used in Syria as I understood. To attack otherwise protected targets or strike fear.

To attack Russian bases they even use swarms of suicide planes: https://www.bellingcat.com/news/mena/2018/01/12/the_poor_man...


So how will a drone attack me in my house? Mind you my house is not a hard target but is air conditioned, so I keep the doors and windows shut. How will a drone attack me in my car? I don’t have a great car, but I’m pretty sure it can outrun an off the shelf quadcopter. So assuming I’m safe in my home and in my car, I guess other opportunities exist to kill me, but you need to have an operator ready with a drone in proximity. It just doesn’t make sense.

Admittedly, drones with IEDs can be used as a terror device, to kill someone in a group of people, but as a targeted means of killing I can’t imagine it being better than a mortar or RPG.


Ask Ukraine how they lost billions in ammunition due to a incendiary grenade dropped with a regular drone.

Someone does not need to kill you in your vehicle or your house -- they can start a major fire while you are in there, drop a defensive hand grenade while you're playing with your family in the back yard, touch you with some high voltage wires, dust you in some ultra-potent synthetic opioid.

A lot of people DO leave their windows open, and it is beyond the point anyway, as windows can be blasted away with the first drone, and while you naturally will inveatigate, the second drone will get you -- just immagine 4 AM, you are sleeping, boom the first drone blasts your windows open, 5 seconds later the next one detonates a defensive grenade in your bedroom.

This is obviously for higher value targets, but I'd say an assasin has a much greater chance of evading capture from a mile away, than doing the deed in person.


> I’m pretty sure it can outrun an off the shelf quadcopter.

You need to know you're running from something to run from it. Do you have set of mirrors or cameras to conveniently monitor what's happening above your car?


A drone need not enter a home to cause havoc within. I do not believe the assumption that one is safe within a home/car is a viable one.

To discuss specific implementations of an attack would seem to violate both a personal code and what I imagine to be the spirit of HN.


> violate both a personal code and what I imagine to be the spirit of HN.

Thanks for throwing up the Ethics flag.

Discussing/brainstorming this in a public forum is volunteering your brainpower in support of murderers.


> Discussing/brainstorming this in a public forum is volunteering your brainpower in support of murderers.

If you think that you in a few moments on the back of a napkin will come up with something that someone funded and fuelled by an ideology that they are willing to die for can't with months of planning, then that's arrogance of an epic scale. This is as ridiculous as don't talk about hacking/spoofing/phishing because otherwise the bad guys won't figure it out.


A worldwide forum discussion among dozens of creative people out to one-up one another on clever strategies for killing another human may well put an effective idea in front of someone who might put it into practice.

There are occasions for discussing mechanisms by which one might construct such a weapon. I feel that this moment isn't one of them. Just because we can talk about it (and must be willing to defend the right to talk about it) doesn't mean that we should do so in this context.


This is absurd. How are we supposed to discuss mitigation strategies for a problem if we can't talk about the problem?

This is a total head in the sand mentality.


> A worldwide forum discussion among dozens of creative people out to one-up one another on clever strategies for killing another human may well put an effective idea in front of someone who might put it into practice.

You mean writers forums?


> so I keep the doors and windows shut

Got armored glass? If no, then two drones will do the trick.

> I don’t have a great car, but I’m pretty sure it can outrun an off the shelf quadcopter.

Not if you stop at stop lights.

More realistically, the thing that gets VIPs assassinated is a predictable schedule. Assassination drones up the ante quite a bit, because one can park a drone in the bushes by your favorite coffee shop in the off chance that you’ve decided to get a latte today, while it’s much harder to successfully hide men with guns in a similar position.

> but as a targeted means of killing I can’t imagine it being better than a mortar or RPG.

I think you’re probably right that an RPG shot at your vehicle is worse for your survival odds, but I think you’re missing the element of risk. The problem with assassinating someone with an RPG is that you’ve got to get within shooting-back range. The chances of you getting shot before or after starting an assassination attempt is pretty high, which means that a successful defensive strategy is to create a wide cordon around the VIP to make attempts too risky. With a drone you don’t have to be anywhere close to the target, which allows for you to make an attempt on a hypothetical VIP with no personal risk whatsoever. If they spot your drone and shoot it down, you’re only out a cheap drone and some explosives, which is much better than getting shot at personally.

Again, for a soft target this is silly, men with guns are used to hurt and terrorize soft targets the world over; they’re cheap and reliable. But as a means to harass hardened targets, drones create new possibilities.


>but I’m pretty sure it can outrun an off the shelf quadcopter.

depends which shelf... $544 buys you a drone that goes 145 mph. $322 for 99 mph.


>So how will a drone attack me in my house?

With enough explosives to reduce it to rumble from outside?

>How will a drone attack me in my car? I don’t have a great car, but I’m pretty sure it can outrun an off the shelf quadcopter.

It can only outrun it if (a) it can see/hear it coming, (b) it can move freely (e.g. not in congestion)


Do you never leave your house or go close to the windows? If you do, there you go.

Do you never run into traffic or stop at red lights in your car? If you do, there you go.

I wouldn't assume you'd always see the drone coming, even if you hear it it can probably strike in just a few seconds, before you realize what it is.

If the attacker wants to avoid being identified a remotely controlled drone is better than an RPG, and probably more accurate as well.


For some it will be the perfect terrorist tool, tools that cause terror do not necessarily need to always kill.


Seems like more hassle than a mortar for about the same effect?


You can’t order a mortar on alibaba, and it requires much more training to use it effectively than flying a drone.

Mortars are also large and heavy and require a crew to serve as well as spotters to direct fire which means you need to have people closer to your target and working communications.

All of this complicates the logistics considerably which makes them less effective and more dangerous to their operators.

Effective mortar attacks can be fairly easily countered in the long term by jamming radios, cutting brush and removing other natural hiding spots and by killing experienced mortar crews.

Drones can be piloted by nearly anyone and with basic consumer grade equipment they can also be piloted from anywhere in the world as long as you have an internet connection.


> You can’t order a mortar on alibaba

Well you can’t order C4 on Alibaba either. But if you can get C4 you can likely get a mortar.


You can get C4 much more easily than you think plastic explosive has a ton of civilian uses from demolition to mining and oil and gas.

Mortars and mortar rounds on the other hand aren’t as easy to get and require trained crews to employ.


A mortar tube without training is nothing more than an exciting way to get yourself and your mates killed.


Mortars also have the nasty habit of drawing counter-battery fire, which occasionally leaves you short of a mortar and mortar crew. Drones are much lower risk to the operator, which is exactly why the US uses them too.


I’m not sure cartels have much trouble finding military hardware or people trained to use it


Believe it or not they do, small arms are much easier to get than heavy weapons they also are much easier to use. The cartels ironically rely on a lot of weapons coming in from the US especially as the remnants of Cold War era proxy wars in central and South America die out and they can no longer benefit from both the US and the former USSR dumping enough weaponry to invade Europe into the jungles.

Weapons don’t grow on trees, they are easy to get as long as there are conflicts in the region which are sponsored by superpowers or other patrons with sufficient resources that facilitate those shipments once those end they become rarer and rare.


Smack the back of a mortar round of pavement, and you now have an impact grenade. Hang that under a drone, and you have a way to drop impact grenades on unsuspecting targets from an altitude high enough that the drone can’t be detected visually.

ISIS was doing just that a few years ago. There were/are plans floating around on the Internet for stabilizing fins for common mortar rounds - 3D print those, and you’re 90% of the way there.


I agree that this article is talking about drones because it's newsish, where bribery and guns are less so.

But, that's not really how the economics of violence works. It's more of a whatever-works, and whatever you can get your hands on element. Guns, bombs, hard men, threats and bribes are still in use. Infantry still exists, even though ICBMs exist. They don't have to choose.

This is quasi military conflict we are talking about. Air power, however meager is a game changer in military conflict. At the fully militarized level, drones have seen a lot of use. They can be deployed everywhere that full air power is impractical, either for tactical or political reasons. A drone base can be orders of magnitude smaller than a traditional air base, even a floating one.

A 2kg payload (or even 200g) is enough to carry a grenade. Grenades kill. It seems likely that drones will be used this way.


There must be a reason then that these drones don’t feature in death tallies? Death by friendly fire far far exceeds lethality of these drones worldwide.

They’ve been in documented use over 7 years at this point. Why are they less effective than Facebook posts at killing people?


Hand grenade toting drones more or less came of age during the ISIS shenanigans and Syrian civil war. Both those conflicts are/were hot enough and had enough state resources pumped in that you had guys taking pot shots at each other with AGTMs. Basically the other sources of casualties were too much background noise for drones to be noteworthy.

When a cooler conflict comes around, think whatever the 2020s, 2030s equivalent of the troubles is, drones will certainly rack up a much greater market share of the casualties by virtue of the lower background noise. They just aren't that useful in a "low but still tons of real armaments around for use" intensity conflict.


The Iranians dropped hand grenades from hobby grade remote control planes in the 80s. This idea is definitely not new.

It just doesn’t work very well.


Quite likely because the logistics aren’t there yet and even more so because actual weapons are available everywhere.

Drones still require someone to turn them into weapons going after bomb makers is an extremely effective strategy because while there are a million guides on the internet on how to make an IED or a suicide vest the actual amount of people capable of making them is extremely small the world isn’t HN.


What do you mean the logistics aren’t there yet? Drones are used daily by bad guys for recon purposes.

These bad guys are groups with caches of weapons and skilled bomb makers in their numbers.

Why in 7 years havent They just put the two together?

What in our arm chair analysis are we overlooking?


I think you greatly over estimate the number of competent bomb makers considering just how effective taking them out has been.

Much of the military equipment in circulation is decades old, you have RPGs from the 70’s being in use.

The logistics for drones isn’t there yet, the human capital isn’t there yet either I would give it 5-10 more years till these drones will be prevalent in nearly every conflict.


car bombs are an unfortunately regular thing in this world (e.g. Azaz last month). Along with suicide vest wearers (Afghanistan most recently) and of course the IEDs designed to avoid detection and jamming in Iraq.

In each of these theatres we have documented heavy use of drones for recon.

The problem is nothing to do with logistics or skillset.

Hobby grade drones (even the heavy lift types which can manage 20kg payload) are not viable weapons. Their payload is too small, their accuracy too imprecise in practice and the economics of a stolen car’s payload being 1000x that of a medium-large hobby drone renders these a plot line in a movie rather than a real thing.

Age of military equipment has nothing to do with anything.


> At the fully militarized level, drones have seen a lot of use.

For sure. ISIS and Syrian insurgents have used them for targeting and dropping what are essentially hand grenades with fins on them.

The "Not-Russians" fighting in Ukraine used them ruthlessly effective artillery spotting. At least one UKR armoured column was halted due to extremely effective on-target artillery fires.


I'm always torn about articles like this. The fact the headline is a lie makes me want to flag it but the content itself is interesting enough I would have read it without a clickbait title. I wish HN had guidance on this topic.


HN guidelines [1] do mention: “please use the original title, unless it is misleading or linkbait”.

[1]: https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


I'm of the opinion that if the headline is a lie, then the thread should be flagged; no matter how interesting the content. Lying shouldn't be rewarded.

But then again, I don't have flagging rights yet, so who am I to judge?


> drones that can lift more than 2 kilos aren’t

A M-67 fragmentation grenade weighs 400g, with a lethal radius of 5 meters.

A bullet still obviously remains cheaper than a single-use drone + grenade + modifications to it.


I don't know. How many attacks happen that have a budget in the thousands of dollars (that's what I ballpark the price of a load bearing drone to be)? I presume a lot. Another way to look at it is, how much does personal protection cost? Bodyguards, etc. If your attack methods are cheaper and at least comparably effective, they're good.

Considering IED drone effectiveness, I think it's just a question of developing tactics and maybe custom tech. It doesn't sound complicated to have a drone descend vertically at such high speeds that even if you notice it and disable its motors it's too late; fuse set to airburst. Exciting time to be a narco weapons engineer.


You can give a pistol and a few hundred dollars to many assassins/sicario in Mexico


Drone isn't necessarily a quadcopter. It can be an RC plane, too, and those can be cheap in larger sizes, although they are more difficult to fly accurately. I'm actually surprised this isn't more prevalent - any teenager could do it, if they had access to explosives, which teenagers in war zones (current or past) typically do. And so do adults, of course.

Truly we are blessed with unequal distribution of technical skill between the terrorists and the rest of us. If a real, world class engineer took up terrorism, they'd never be found and could do _a lot_ of damage.


Killing specific people might be hard but harassing gathering and attacking to crowds don't need 2 kilos.


Honestly, the only explanation I can think of is that it is easy to see a quadrocopter fly and do its thing but it is actually hard to actually notice its real life impracticality unless you own one of them.

I don't know what specific model is shown in the picture but if it is a DJI Mavic Air 2 then it only weighs 570 gram and can only fly for 34 minutes.

When you compare a quadrocopter with a real life bomber then practically no bomber on earth is lighter than the bombs it is carrying. A B-52 can carry 30% of its weight in payload. So that would give us at most 171g for the bomb the Mavic Air 2 is carrying but even this is optimistic because it was not designed for this use case.

The idea of "cheap" drones carrying bombs is basically an urban legend. You can certainly build a good bombing drone for $5000 to $10000 and fly many missions and thereby kill hundreds of people with it but that same money can also buy guns and lots of ammo as well.


I understood it as they dont intend to get the drone back.

I did some searching, letter bombs were using 50g of RDX [1] and were able to kill a person so driving (and exploding) a drone with 171g of RDX into someone is more than enough.

If you take its 18km of reach (while I doubt the controls are able to go that far although with a 4g sim card this could be doable) you get a poor mans cruising "missile" for $1k. And there is nothing preventing (except the price) launching few of them.

I think that those drones are posing a real threat even more as probably the drug cartels have the money to realize it, if they can afford to build parallel cellular network [2], they surely can also perform this.

Their use case probably is not killing an average Joe but rather assassinations on high profile targets that are heavily guarded. And quite frankly I am really interested how bodyguards can tackle this as drone can literally fall from the sky, without any electricity being used so jamming (or frying electronics if feasible) wont work here. I think this is going to become a real nightmare in the future.

[1] 4g of RDX: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c6Qj1qSZDKg or 100g of "something" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_664jlLwqI

[2] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mexico-telecoms-cartels-s...


Hmm, isn't the idea of letter bombs that the bomb is literally within arm's length, whereas that sort of proximity for a noisy drone, keeping it close enough to a possibly moving target, while setting it off may not be super practical. It may be more realistic to get within, say, 10 meters?

Also, no way the FAA would issue waivers for this sort of mission. /s


Yes, this is certainly a part of problem constructing it.

I would imagine that replacing the motors and adding larger battery while keeping the control system shouldnt be an issue.

Also within an article there is a picture of a box with 4 motors, if lower part would be made from something like copper, it could be used as shaped charge [1] or adding shrapnel would also be an option. Or just make it to carry the normal hand grenade. The noise is surely an issue if you dont keep the distance, so I would imagine that you fly high over the target and then go into free fall.

In either case, this has a potential to become something really nasty.

Anyway, enough of this talk, it is surely an interesting technological challenge and interesting debate, but there are some really sick people on this planet and I dont want to give them any ideas. Also I bet there are some red lights blinking in some 3 letter agency somewhere :D :D :D

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shaped_charge


A phone network is no use - latency means it’s useless for visual realtime control of a drone and you could just store a gps waypoint route on the flight controller and save the 4g modem weight if you meant as a mission control mechanism.

Achieving the precision of someone holding a letter would be remarkably challenging. Source: racing drone pilot for 5+ years.


Forget visual - DIY (semi-)autonomous drones are doable today and could be pretty scary too. 4G may not be good enough for a human pilot flying FPV but it’s likely more than enough for a drone with GPS running Ardupilot to hone in on a target tagged with a planted transmitter or bugged phone.


Hobbyists have been documenting step by steps for this since 2008, nothing you’re suggesting is remotely new.

Why hasn’t it happened? What is the part of the movie plot imagination that doesn’t translate quite as well to real life?


I'm not sure, tbh, though I suspect it's due somewhat to the general technical incompetence of (terrorist & gang) organizations. Bright people aren't exactly attracted to the idea of joining an organization which doesn't value life highly, and the bright ones that do enlist may be likely to be conscripted to work on other projects or killed by enemies/rivals. It's doable by hobbyists, but doing it with the scale/accuracy needed to be dangerous is a complicated endeavour that doesn't lend itself well to this kind of organization.


Fly a drone carrying a 500gram camera behind a tall building. You’ll learn the 6 things that stops this whole idea working. It’s consigned to the movie plots for the foreseeable future.


Think a lot of these comments don't take into consideration how cheap these drones can be made, especially if you have add a 3D printer into the mix.

Printing the air frame is a huge cost saver.

Cheap motors are everywhere, plenty of places to scavenge tiny hobby motors (doesn't have to fly super fast or lift 2000 grams)

Cheap arduino's for brains and motor control, not much to it.

You can get away with having a tiny lipo battery for powering the motors since it's a one way trip for the drone anyways...

With the right choice of materials you could get a drone BOM down to $100-150 [not included transmitter remote control] Needless to say, having a cartel budget you can really pump up production to few 100 a week if needed....

Making sumthing that's going to be used for a one way trip isn't hard, when your objective is to make a impact on target.

This is the new battlefield.


Russians use drones at regular basis to throw[1] old ВОГ-17[0] grenades for automatic grenade launchers at Ukrainian soldier at Donbas.

[0]: https://uk.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%92%D0%9E%D0%93-17 [1] https://www.slovoidilo.ua/2020/06/11/novyna/bezpeka/bojovyky...


You mean mostly Ukranian citizens against Ukrainian army which was unconstitutionally deployed against them? (note that I do not deny Russian involvement, but foreign involvement in civil wars is a really common matter)

Ukrainian army uses similar simple drones to throw grenades at rebels as well [0][1]. And interestingly enough Chinese develop similar drones [2], so I think they will be more and more common in future conflicts.

[0]: https://tvzvezda.ru/news/vstrane_i_mire/content/202052159-Rc... [1]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_Y810e2RXk [2]: https://www.defenseworld.net/news/24569/Weirdly_Shaped_Chine...


Yep. Ukrainian Voluntary Army used them too. Ukrainian army bought military drones from Turkey, which did show in Syria.

BTW: 3 millions citizens of USSR were at Germany side in WWW2. Do you think it was civil war?


Those Turkish drones have been bought in 2019 and AFAIK barely seen deployment for the fear of losing them. While the cheap drones are widely used by the army at the very least for reconnaissance. It's very hard to distinguish the Ukrainian army from the "volunteers", but the drone from the link in my previous comment was shot down just in 2020.

>BTW: 3 millions citizens of USSR were at Germany side in WWW2. Do you think it was civil war?

No, because those collaborationist have stayed mostly in the rear (e.g. see deployments of the SS "Galizien"), while on front lines fought forces from the invading countries. Also it's a matter of ratio. USSR was invaded by a 3.8M strong force, so even if you include those collaborationist, more than 50% of the invading force were foreigners. Meanwhile in today's DNR/LNR militia more than 90% of personnel are Ukrainian citizens (well, de jure, most of them don't think about themselves as Ukrainians anymore) and by a very strange coincidence in all recent prisoner swaps Ukrainian citizens were swapped for Ukrainian citizens. A very strange "Russo-Ukrainian war", don't you think?

To get a sense why it's a civil war, just watch footage from the early days of the conflict [0][1]. You can see that moving military forces have been actively blocked by simple folk who understood, that this unlawful deployment will simply result in Ukrainians killing other Ukrainians for political gain of the fresh-installed government.

BTW I do think that Chechen wars can be viewed as a civil war, even though the rebel forces were supported by Saudi and Kuwait money, and foreign mercenaries have actively participated in it.

[0]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xp4I-prrk0 [1]: https://www.liveleak.com/view?i=039_1397631470


Why is this comment being downvoted?


Because the first sentence in the comment contains an inconvenient truth which goes against the dominant propaganda narrative and which is really hard to refute, so the only tool left for "fighting" with this information is downvotes?


> I don't know what specific model is shown in the picture but if it is a DJI Mavic Air 2 then it only weighs 570 gram and can only fly for 34 minutes.

It's worth what, on the order of $1000? Strap 100 g of explosives to it, fly it to the target's face and detonate. It does not need 34 minutes of fly time.


> So that would give us at most 171g

Grenades weigh about that much.


Technology progresses. What's hard today may be easy tomorrow.


It's tried and true: there's lots of drone footage out there of ISIS drones dropping bombs on vehicles and people. Here's a quick example of an attack on a vehicle: https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/world/video-reportedl...


Actually, you can kill a person with a tiny drone the size of a hand palm, it only requires a tiny explosive to enter the forehead and kill the person.


While I agree with your premise, I would just like to point out that in Mexico, the number of missing people far outweigh the number of confirmed deaths. Not all cartel murders result in visible bodies on streets, and many of them do take care to hide their trails.


Unless you are trying to send a message, it seems to me that the best assassination would leave doubt even as to whether the person was dead, or how they died. I think the parent's observation is spot on.


There was that movie where the mobster told the incompetent hitman - "Just walk up to them, put the gun to their head and pull the trigger. That way, you can be sure."

Then he put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger (because his uzi attack had failed to kill the target)

Anyway, hard to beat the classics. Until the drone can lie in wait, identify the target itself, home in on it and explode at point blank range, well then we haven't gotten close to the traditional approach.


Fly a drone to a location and conduct surveillance for the target.

ID target and activate drone bombing protocol.


Still have to track, home and estimate distance to target before exploding.

We know this is hard, witness that nobody has accomplished it yet?


the costs are dropping


I actually work in the drone detection/jamming field.

My only surprise is that this sort of thing doesn't happen more often. We already see drones used for drug smuggling and privacy violations, as well as the use of drones to carry IED payloads.

Drones are an amazing tool but as with any tool, they can be used in nefarious ways.


I presume the cheapest protection would be fine netting.

Is there any indication of netting being used as protection against drones?

Or would netting be to obvious that there was a target worth targeting?


Some of the more entertaining defenses I've seen are netting and actual hawks trained to snatch them out of the sky!

Nets tend to be a sort of one-hit thing, so if you miss you're out of luck. They're obviously not ideal around airports and other infrastructure.


well up until the point where it is an aerosol attack. protection is probably going to be down to specialized sensor arrays and some form of ballistic counter but these solutions will be expensive and harder to deploy than the attack.

drones open the door to all sorts of malfeasance that used to require state level backing to accomplish and counters are only coming into play if not concept


Has there been any progress with coming up with a system that can _reliably_ jam them?


I don't know if you could ever stop a low cost drone short of using a shotgun. Even if you had some sort of directed EMP technology, the drone could position itself along the correct precomputed vector from far away, cut off electric, and glide the bomb to the target silently.


Oh great: low budget stand-off weapons. This is not going to end well.


Its really not that easy to shoot a drone down

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGLxKXtkHpY


> the drone could position itself along the correct precomputed vector from far away, cut off electric, and glide the bomb to the target silently.

An octocopter/ordinary drone can't do this - their electric goes out and they fall from the sky.

For a glider you'd need an actual flyable airplane model (something like this: https://laughingsquid.com/a-15-foot-long-radio-controlled-ai...), and these are expensive as fuck - a single engine alone will run up well into four digit range, if not five digits (something like the JetCat P1000). And at that point, you could also go ahead and buy an outright RPG, should be far cheaper to acquire depending where you are, or buy a couple junker cars, load them up with fertilizer bombs, and distribute them where one expects the target.


This is wrong.

ISIS used[1] the X-UAV Talon. This is a off-the-shelf 1.7M wingspan drone plane available for about $150 without electronics (which are around $50-$200 depending on how elaborate you want to get).

It's capable of 100km+ flights[3].

Here's a pic of one after being shot down in Iraq[4]

[1] https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/commercial-dro...

[2] https://au.banggood.com/X-UAV-Talon-EPO-1718mm-Wingspan-V-ta...

[3] https://diydrones.com/profiles/blogs/100km-in-the-x-uav-talo...

[4] https://armamentresearch.com/islamic-state-unmanned-aerial-v...


Glad you posted this, was also going to post the images of the Skywalker X8 discovered in Syria and Mosul.

https://dronecenter.bard.edu/files/2016/12/Drones-in-Iraq-an...


> An octocopter/ordinary drone can't do this - their electric goes out and they fall from the sky.

Since you lack all imagination, the drone could position itself directly above the target before cutting off the engines and fall silently.


Reliably jamming drone comms would also jam all other radio based systems in the area. You could try to narrow your beam, but that could lead to evasive pattern dodge manouvers, and would be harder against a swarm of the things. Even then, the drones could get by with extremely crude, near ballistic autonomy (erraticly fly 500m in that compass direction and detonate on the moving blob near the pool).


You can jam signals they rely on, like GPS and cellular, but there are already drones that are capable of flying on vision alone, so no.


INS chips providing enough precision for autonomous operation over last few kilometers are rather cheap nowadays too.

A small-ish plane frame could easily deliver a grenade from sleepy suburbs 10km straight to the Oval Office with only few minutes of warning (assuming somebody could actually detect it in time at all). We're just lucky nobody seems to be bothered to do that.


Well, if you managed to detect and track an incoming drone you could ‘jam’ its camera with a high-powered laser - or something that threw up a curtain of flares or burning magnesium, or whatever.


Does that work for a fleet of 10 drones? 100 drones? 1,000 drones?


A drone swarm dropping hand grenades is like targeted artillery. Experience from WW 1 is that it's straightforward to defend against artillery fire, just retreat into a shelter. A target that's worth five dozen drones with grenades can afford a bunker.


So simple in your scenario... The target just needs to jump in their nearest bunker, better hope they happen to be attacked outside their bunker eh?


Not sure why you're being downvoted. Legitimate concern.


We need an anti-drone drone!


They can just get an anti anti-drone drone


strong narrow fabric jams the rotors.

there was a hunter drone product doing exactly that from above. can't google it now, maybe there was no business.


The next worst case scenario is autonomous drones, that do not require radio or gps inputs. Navigation can be done with crude inertial navigation systems and advancing AI can identify and fly to targets with increasing accuracy. Causing general chaos or exploding in crowds will not require AI though.

The only counter measure against those will then be an EMP system, Blinding lights to disable cameras, etc.

The next evolution for public speakers or gatherings would probably be completely online.


SLAM is already functional for drone navigation, more or less. As for blinding lights, that can be fixed by using many different sensors and wavelengths, as well as high-quality optics and imaging sensors with high flare resistance and high dynamic range.

As for EMPs, a drone that isn't remote controlled could feasibly be put in a Faraday cage. I'd make a prototype, but I don't really want to contribute to future assassinations.

There just aren't any good countermeasures, I'm afraid. I'd imagine fully online works well but even that is seriously limited.


There are plenty of countermeasures, but they're all active countermeasures - ex. a couple guys with shotguns, trained falcons, or your own anti-drone drones.


Yes, but kinetic countermeasures scale really badly. The definition of "drone" is also quite flexible here, a couple guys with shotguns, falcons, or your own anti-drones work fine against a few slow drones, badly against a few dozen slow flying drones, not at all against a few hundred slow flying drones, are essentially useless against one jet-powered drone (microjet engines are very cheap!) don't have a hope against a dozen fast flying drones, and are non-existent to a few hundred fast flying drones.

You'd pay around 2500$ for a 60lbf jet engine, and around 3000$ tops for the rest of the drone. That's around 5500-6000$, so for a hundred drones you'd pay 600 000$, or about 60% of the cost to train one soldier, and around one 0.8 millionths of the yearly US defence expenditure. For 100 drones. That means with the US defence budget you could make 120 000 000 such drones.

Sure, against the current crop of electric consumer drones, it's not much of an issue. But there's the tech to make a 500km/h drone that's fully autonomous and encased in a Faraday cage for less than 10 000$ a piece. That scares the crap out of me.


Bigger isn't necessarily better, here. There's a term for "small jet turbine powered autonomous suicide drone" already - "cruise missile" - and it's something that the US military has put a lot of work into stopping.

Small drones aren't really part of the same threat profile, near as I can tell.


Cruise missiles generally have a diameter of around 70+ cm and a length of over 5 meters. They are also hideously expensive. These drones would have a diameter of around 15-25 cm, a length of a meter or two, a cost a hundredth of a cruise missile. Not comparable.

They're not bigger than a large camera drone, they're just much faster.

The US military has absolutely nothing that can stop a legion of a thousand or more "mini cruise missiles" such as these. Not a chance in hell.


Cruise missiles currently target large things, these would be anti-personnel drones. I guess we could call them “knife missiles”?


I take it that's a culture reference, if it isn't then congratulations, you are in good company.



Umm people speak about lasers, energy based weapons and etc and etc. That problem was solved almost century ago. Flak cannons. The moment you have means to properly detect such cloud of problems, few flak cannons will rip them apart in seconds.


Low flying targets are hard to hit with flak I think. It's also hard to fire flak over the heads of a crowd at a public speaking event without hurting anybody.


No they wouldn't. Flak cannons don't work very well against low flying targets, they tend to just kill everyone on the ground.

Morso, flak cannons are less effective against small targets due to a smaller amount of debris.

Finally, there's no reason for the drones to be that close together. You can have them 30 meters apart , flying at an altitude of 20 meters or so. What then?

Finally, there's targeting. How are you going to target reliably a threat you've never seen before that's a similar size to a lot of birds?


For a state backed terrorist organization, the cost of drones could be even lower. Mass production and very low complexity of engineering will make it easy and cheap to produce drones. Add to that, the cost of failure and innovation is also very less, consequently, the use of drones will increase exponentially.

Just imagine what destruction a terrorist can create if he can launch a 100 drones, from miles away, to attack a filled stadium.


This drone craze is all because we have better batteries today. They should have thought of that when they invented such dangerous tech. /s (Law of unintended consequences)


In my layman opinion the correct solution would be a directed-energy weapon. The most obvious one that comes to mind would be a laser (or an array of lasers, for your dozen-fast flying drone scenario). Imagine the large collection of lights that point multi-directionally behind rockstars at concerts; except, in the future, these are all defensive lasers to defend against a worst-case scenario. Ha, would probably be very impractical except for defending heads of state and the like.


There're relatively easy countermeasures against that too: reflective paint and a rolling airframe. To be effective the laser needs to heat the airframe fast enough to cause structural damage before the energy is dissipated away. This is relatively easy when you're targeting a black plastic drone that remains stationary in the sky. It becomes orders of magnitude less effective when the drone is white or metallic and the point of contact moves all over the drone, particular because flying objects have natural air cooling to dissipate energy away.


Lasers have been demonstrated strong enough that those countermeasures are insufficient.

Bigger problem is, if you’re a politician and this scenario plays out during a rally, you just blinded your own supporters by shining a metal-melting laser at a shiny bauble while it was just above their heads.


I haven't seen any demonstration of a laser destroying a rolling airframe with reflective coatings. The only practical demonstration I could find anywhere was a laser on a boat burning one single drone that was gray in color, from only about 800m away. And it took about ten seconds to do so.

Anyways, I'd love your source.


I think I know the demo you’re talking about.

Most of my search results today are CGI propaganda pieces, the closest I can find is this from 2013, which is just a normal non-shiny and probably non-spinning missile, but from 1.5km and being destroyed 4s after launch: https://youtu.be/kgUnDeED9MM


Maybe the best anti drone would be a swarm of drones you send off to crash into another drone? You could model the schooling from fish or birds, then just have enough of them fill the air with enough density to guarantee a hit of the target within the error of the range finding technology.


The problem is logistics. For this solution to work, the counter swarm should be more capable than the incoming swarm (faster, more AI capabilities, etc), and their quantity should be more than the incoming swarm.

You cannot have millions of drones everywhere, but the enemy just has to be lucky and send a million drones to attack you.

Also, you can have advanced tactics, like releasing the swarm, but programming them to hide and attack at random. With a good enough drone, you can create a almost impossible to evade booby-trap. Especially if you are in a war field.


The counter swarm can be cheaper/worse in some dimensions.

Smaller batteries since they don't need to travel far.

Nets or or even nothing instead of explosives, they need to stop drones not people.

The above two mean a lighter air frame.

The above 3 all mean more speed with the same motors (probably good) or less capable motors (seems like a bad plan).

Communications only need to be short range. Autonomy is plausible (but requires solving friendly fire).


Communications can be jammed.

Counter drones like anti-missile missiles need to be bigger than one would think and require much more energy, because they need to be much faster and more maneuverable than the drones they are hitting. That means bigger motors, higher discharge batteries, and a stronger airframe.

I'm fairly certain they would be more expensive than the attackers drones, and you would need around two orders of magnitude more of them than the attacker.


Why can't shotguns be automated. Building a personal "anti-aircraft/drone" gun should be feasible.


They are. They're usually called CRAM or CIWS on ships (Close in weapons system).[0] They are used as the last line of defense on modern warships against missiles and other threats.

Here you can see one of them in action:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KsVUISS8oHs

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Close-in_weapon_system


They are also ineffective against more than a handful of threats.

They work okay against mortars and dumb munitions, though.


Well, that scary to hear.


It really is. I came to this realization on the way back from a robotics competition, I was editing pictures I took with my new camera. I was reading articles about improvements we could make to SLAM, and editing pictures I took on the trip. When I realized that I had so much dynamic range that was able to completely remove haze and flaring from incredibly bright objects very close with a very middling lens, and combining that with the very impressive results in optical SLAM, it certainly gave me pause. Since then I've done quite a bit of research on this and I haven't been able to find any kind of usable countermeasure.

Hanging out on photographers forums, there's people who have been able to edit out details by substracting up to seven stops, with current consumer tech and optics, and improvements are coming every few months. Canon just demonstrated a sensor with 20 stops of dynamic range. Coupled with IR sensors, far UV sensors, and different wavelength filters to filter out lasers, there's really not much that can be done anymore. Except for kinetic or directed energy approaches, but they are incredibly expensive and incredibly vulnerable to saturation.


You cannot have active measures against an intelligent swarm of drones.

If drones are wired to explode in case of landing or power failure, active measures cannot be taken when the drones are over crowded areas or near high profile targets.

The alternative would be to destroy them from far away areas. And that is really really hard.

I guess we have to come up with special guns and ammunition that can create a wall of destruction for drones.


Of course you can. There’s always an escalation to beat the latest weapon.

There’s a myriad of possibility. Flak guns, modified chaff, glue, directed energy, hunter killer drones, etc.


kumarvvr's point was that you[1] have to consider the collateral damage of shooting down drones. If you make an enemy drone crash there's a possibility that it could crash in to a school or a hospital. That would be bad.

[1] The person defending something, not you. Your comment makes it clear you believe in defence at any cost.


When you need to defend, it's too late.

If you're at a point where you need to take specific action in defense of a drone, you are already have crossed the rubicon where you are in conflict, and the outcome of that action may include harm to others. Any other constraints around the application of violence is wishful thinking at best -- there are too many variables in these scenarios.

The obvious solution that will happen is heavier licensure requirements and criminalization of unlicensed operation. You'll have toys and professional devices, and there will be a presumption that a drone is bad unless proven otherwise.


Good point.


You forgot one: shotguns. The most reliable means to take out a drone might be some good old fashioned birdshot.


And what about good old water cannons? I can't imagine how the drone's rotor would be able to generate predictable lift when hit by a lot of water.


Water canons would work too, but only for fixed positions. Shotguns are pretty light, and can do double duty against more common threats simply by swapping out the ammunition from birdshot to buckshot.


Water cannons have a very limited range. Not good for saturation attacks.


Netting seems like the cheap, reasonable option.


Insert obligatory reference to Slaughterbots (2017)

https://youtu.be/HipTO_7mUOw


I think that might be a reupload of this? https://youtu.be/9CO6M2HsoIA

3x the views, at least.


Black Mirror has an episode on this too: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hated_in_the_Nation


Short-range air defense (SHORAD) is going to be a huge growth area for defense contractors over the next several years.


I wonder if we can repurpose mm-wave 60GHz panel antennas and SDRs for cheap short-range radars. Then combine with a commercial infrared camera for multi-mode target acquisition. Put those on a mount with servos to control a PKM or M240 machinegun, and mount the whole setup on the roofs of buildings. Critical infrastructure anti-drone air defense guns at fairly low cost.


Then you just get stealth drones (fixed wing). Bondo, styrofoam, electric ducted fans, frequency hopping radio links, all easily doable. Only hard part really is range. For that, I could see hybrid electrics that power down the gas/nitro engine for stealth.


Or even just a gas turbine, as RC people already use. 10:1 TWR, relatively cheap. Quite loud, but works at high altitudes.


Small gas powered drones for the military are already pretty common.


Firing a machine gun in a city is a huge risk. A free falling bullet can still kill a human.


> Put those on a mount with servos to control a PKM or M240 machinegun

Leaving weapons unattended like that is a recipe for disaster. Even worse if they're network-connected (look at the tons of insecure IoT devices already out there).


What????? What he is describing already exists and is extensively used. CRAM - it shoots down rockets and artillery. Go watch a video of it


CRAMs are both several tons in weight, require a lot of power and special mounting, and are found mounted on a warship or in a military base; you're not really going to worry about some random insurgent carrying it off. Besides, they eat 20x102mm ammunition, which isn't exactly common stuff.

That is a far cry from the consequences of leaving a M240 around, which is both man portable and consumes the incredibly common 7.62x51mm NATO cartridge.


Those cheap antennas don't have sufficient power output or precision for that application. Going to be expensive.


You'd think that broadband directed antennas would be pretty good at this already. The technology has been around for decades. It would be fun to maybe convert bill gates mosquito lasers (amp them up obviously) to shooting down drones if they get in illegal airspace.


Imagine a hundred thousand of these things. Ugh. I don’t wanna know if that’s in our future.


Each with and incendiary charge and the GPS coordinates of every home/building in a city. Who needs Tokyo/Dresden firebombing anymore.


Sounds a lot easier than attaching incendiaries to bats, at least...

Which is something the US actually tried. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bat_bomb


Allied bombing is a thing that happened, but sometimes it seems like people really strain to relate anything to something shameful associated with Americans.

In this particular context, if you're thinking of WWII, it's kind of odd for a person not to think of and compare the concept to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fu-Go_balloon_bomb


Parent just listed two of the most brutal single attack conventional bombings of a city in history.

This could be due to some agenda to shame the Allies for their involvement in WW2, or it could just be because WW2 is really the only time in history it was done on that scale and the Allies happened to win the conflict.

I'm going to go with principle of charity and assume the latter...


It would be absurd to attribute every mention of Dresden or Hiroshima or whatever to an anti-American agenda. People simply inhabit an environment where that is what comes to mind. Maybe people don't see the similarity I do, or maybe the thing that I think relevant is obscure. But I'm noting that it sometimes seems strained and odd, from my personal perspective. Blaming an individual here and now was not my intent. I'm more saying, look at the bubble english speakers inhabit, I wonder how we got here, since most people doubtlessly aren't acting out of a conscious or malicious agenda.


On the bright side, you don't need to bomb everyone. Future wars could be more efficient.


But that lowers the deterrence factor. If you’ve got lethal drones that can target any individual you want then who needs war when you can establish a totalitarian state? Just eliminate all of your enemies with drones and use them to keep the population firmly under your heel.


But then your enemies also drones you, and so does the popualtion. They're pretty easy to make and import.


I think that this is a great point. It's also a little scary when you think about the data sets that exist out there for advertising. Any way that someone targets an ad could be the selection criteria for these efficient wars.

My next thought is that programmers do have an opportunity to take moral stands against some of these things. We can't stop someone somewhere from building these terrible things but we might be able to make it harder by preventing huge problematic privacy invading data sets from existing.


If "winning" is what you care about.


Elon's talked about this on stage, where easily could have 1,000 to 100,000 of them with just a tiny amount of C4 - and then have them swarm at one or many targets using AI or other training/data.


Killbots is a scifi short based on this. Don't watch if you're squirmish though.


*squeamish.


Using overwhelming numbers of small and expendable weapons is a tried and true strategy.

Drone swarms are coming once the technology gets mature enough, mostly in speed and carrying capacity.


Isn’t that one of the scenes in the Iron Man? Elon isn’t as original


I wonder if it will get to the personal device level..


Israel's "Lahav Or" (Light Blade) can

> Said to be the first defense system of its kind in the world, the Light Blade system will target incendiary balloons and kites, which have started countless fires in the southern border vicinity communities in recent years, as well as drones.

[0] https://www.israelhayom.com/2020/08/12/israel-deploys-first-...


I remember someone flying one full of meth into the side of the Tijuana Costco.

https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/border-baja-califo...

I always thought drones would bring down the violence in Mexico, since it would be easier to keep your distribution network under the radar.

If you don't have to recruit hundreds of people to actually drive the drugs across the border, and can fly it over the fence in the middle of the night, what would be the reason for anybody to be shooting anybody.

Whoever's turf you were operating in wouldn't even know you were operating on their turf because your whole operation could be just two white-collar-type guys keeping a really low-key presence. The rise of the narco-technocrats.

But, I guess it didn't go that way.


How come they don't use artillery to launch? Does it damage the product? Too hard to aim? Wonder if you could ship drugs by just mortar with radio transmitter embedded. Way greater capacity and practically undetectable at landing site unless you have the receiver.



> This is just the latest example of drug smugglers' ingenuity, or more accurately, the ingenuity of the authorities who caught them.

Talk about blowing smoke. Border patrol saw these guys using a catapult to hurl drugs over the border and took their catapult. Where's the "ingenuity" on the part of the authorities?

I think a catapult is a great idea. Now I want to design a pumpkin chucker that hurls a steerable projectile for extra precision.


This is an oversimplification of what the drug cartels do. The Cartels are the only buyer and seller of significance in Mexico, two narco-technocrats couldn’t get enough cocaine to import to make a difference without their buy in


I think what you're saying makes sense. I just want to pull out the idea a bit more.

Mexico is a country with a massive informal economy. For every McDonalds that operates in the formal sector, there are millions of small business operators who are totally off the radar.

The cartel is the McDonalds. The narco-technocrats are the thousands of taco carts off the metro crammed into every corner of Mexico City.

Two technocrats, sure, they wouldn't break the bank. But it's not tremendously difficult to get a package across the Guatemalan border, drive it up to Tijuana, and have your cousin with a drone fly it across the border where your other cousin picks it up on the other side.

There's no overhead. There's no need to pay protection money. There's no need to pay off police. There's no psychos in your organization calling attention to you.

This is the same thing that happened with black tar heroin distribution in the United States. A low-key family operation run by guys from the same small town in Mexico. They were revolutionary because they flew completely under the radar. No guns, no violence. Just earning a buck to send home to mom and dad.

Ref: Dreamland by Sam Quinones


Small armed drones could be the game-changer the AK-47 was. Before the AK-47, revolt against an army with machine guns was almost impossible. "Whatever happens, we have got ... The Maxim gun - and they have not." Post AK-47, the guerillas usually win, or at least can keep the struggle going on indefinitely.

The combination of drones for assassination and Bitcoin for payment could force everyone with money or power into a bunker or armored vehicle for the rest of their life.


Drones are easy to jam. The communication link and GPS are most obvious targets.


Progress marches on. Autonomous visual navigation have been available for some time. Face recognition can be done with smartphone hardware. Inertial guidance for drones is available but still a bit pricey.[1]

This is going to be a major problem for the golf industry. It's the ideal target environment - high-value targets, no place to take cover.

[1] https://www.uavnavigation.com/products/ahrs-imu/polar-300


Nah, golf industry will be fine. If a technology is so advantageous, then it will eventually become the counter to itself. Imagine several drone swarming around you like a body guard and you would have several orbital layers for short/medium/long range protection.

Imagine a drone being so sophisticated that it can calculate the sniper shot gunning for you and can even deflect the bullet or take the direct hit for you. Same for suicidal bombs. If the enemy drone explode on impact, your drone can kamikaze theirs.


That can just never work. Several drones swarming around you do will do bugger all against enough shrapnel, or against a shaped charge, or just a sufficiently heavy drone going fast enough. Or the drone could carry a chemical agent and kill you.

The economics of defence are such that kamikaze anti-drone drones won't work. Either they'll miss the vast majority of the time, or they will be hideously more expensive than the drone they're defending against.


"The bomber will always get through". That remark was made about the big bombing campaigns of WWII, and the planned nuclear attacks of the 1950s and 1960s. Drone attacks are the same concept in miniature.


There no reason it can't use Google maps to travel and be autonomous with facial recognition.

Star-Tracker Algorithm for Smartphones and Commercial Micro-Drones -https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7070887/

The short distance drones can travel is a big problem, you can backtrack to the launch location.

Committing murder for money is mostly unheard of outside of Hollywood.

It happens but it's generally somewhat crazy people or people copying Hollywood. This is more the real reason it wont happen. Society doesn't like murder and will pull out all stops to discontinue it.


Mexico is way past that point. Some of the drug cartels operate openly.


Heh there was that killerbot video back in the day, swarm of small bomb drones hunting via facial recognition. Cartels are quite innovative when it comes to killing


That video where a terrorist group successfully stole a military weapon shown to be at or above the level of importance of a Predator drone...

Then decided to kill a specific person instead of just bombing the entire building where they apparently knew that person would be

I never bought into the premise that it should be more scary than if a terrorist group was to steal a sophisticated military strike weapon today.

We have drones carrying missiles that can kill a person in the passenger seat of a car without killing the driver by deploying swords after launch, I think we leapfrogged DJI drones with facial recognition and grenades in terms of brutality


This one, I believe. https://youtu.be/9CO6M2HsoIA


I assume that an attempt on assasination on a really relevant figure, president and so, could end with the entire cartel city nuked in retaliation. There is always a bigger fish, so there is a limit to what you can do with this.

My bet would be that this is a PR stunt and what they are really trying is to discourage people from catching drones that transport thousands of dollars in drugs to steal the cargo. Beware!, They could have a bomb included! so let them pass without shooting down it, specially in urban areas. Once the police and population take the message, the delivery drones will be safe.


How do you do attribution? What if you never find who killed the public figure?


Slightly baffled by this comment; Mexico is not a nuclear-armed state and is not going to start responding to its cartel problems with genocide? Or are you suggesting that the US would engage in a first strike genocide in response to a single quadcopter bomb?


Is just an metaphor that there is always something with a bigger drone. Change nuking by bombing and city by hacienda if you prefer.

Of course the concept of drone-bomb, once released, is like pandora's box. A double edged sword that could harm both parts.

The natural answer from the enemy cartel after being bombed would be to intercept as many enemy drug-delivery drones as possible with a, lets name it, "falcon-fly drone", attach a package bomb and a postcard with a magneto and let it to continue their route.

And if you are the police you could attach a beacon instead to convert it into a "Judas drone" and release it. Even better if you can catch again the drone in route or release the beacon automatically after a few minutes, the narcos wouldn't suspect that now you have a velocity and a vector. That would help you to trace a possible point of origin and maybe delivery over the same straight line.


"Nuked" probably only refers to somebody sending a bigger bomb on the way back and not so much on nuclear warfare.


If this kind of thing keeps up it wouldn't be much of a stretch for drones to be banned from civilian ownership in many parts of the world.


The issue will be enforcement of these laws.

How will you regulate the possession and distribution of IMUs and electric motors?

Hell most of the parts you need to build a drone are available in a used cellphone and many of the rest can be 3d printed.


To underscore your point, here's an example of how easy it is to get god-tier military hardware in Mexico from one of the many people breaking bad across the border in the US.

https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-features/arming...

This fella in Texas was selling .50-cals and miniguns straight to the Cartels for years. There are likely many, many more like him.

Mexican think tanks have spent years trying to figure out how the hell to stop the massive flow of weapons into Mexico from Texas and Arizona.

https://www.mexicoevalua.org/mexicoevalua/wp-content/uploads...

US think tanks too, notably David Shirk at USD has done a bunch of work on this.

https://catcher.sandiego.edu/items/peacestudies/way_of_the_g...


There was an absolutely trivial solution: send a few fighter planes to blow up the haciendas and spray herbicide on the plantations. But the US government prefers to profit and make political hay from the drug war.


Dude that's how you get the child of American senators kidnapped andmailed back in pieces or another 9/11.

Everything sounds simple in theory until you think of the consequences.


I think a lot of it has shifted over into meth as well, with the availability of cheap precursors from China, and loose security on ports.

Can't stop it at the source anymore.


In 2019 the Trump administration considered formally designating the Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations. They backed off on that approach, but had they gone ahead it probably would have led to drone strikes.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-50697635


It's been tried. It didn't work.


It is quite easy to make your own bombs and firearms as well, all with perfectly legal materials. They may not have the effectiveness of commercially made versions, but they'll get the job done in a pinch.

Typically, I think, laws against possession of such homemade illegal goods are enforced as add-on charges to other crimes, unless you are selling them.


There was a German terrorist trying to shoot up a Synagogue in Halle. He had an impressive stash of homemade firearms yet none of them were powerful enough to actually open the thick wooden gate to the synagogue. A ladder and a knife would have killed more people.

You're going to run into the same situation with drones. It is easy to imagine some super complicated drone based attack scheme when there are far simpler and more effective methods of taking care of a target involving firearms.


If they made it legal to shoot them on sight in Texas that would go a long ways here to keep their numbers down.


As far as I know C4 isn't for civilians either..


Tannerite is, though. (And where it isn't, blasting charges for mining are. And where those aren't, fertilizer probably still is. Explosives are hard, yet also far easier than you'd think)


You'll find that regular fertilizer has explosion retardant additives. Which made me think (and was confirmed later) that the Beirut explosion was 'weapons grade' ammonium nitrate, rather than the stuff sold to civilians.

For instance; https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/cen-v073n022.p006


Buy those things and you’ll end up on a list and under surveillance quickly.


Doesn't that imply you're already under surveillance? The list that we're on is: anyone who is alive and can be surveiled.


No, but there are specific collaborations for high risk purveyors of things like explosive precursors.

If you show up at a farm store to buy certain fertilizers in unusual quantities, that interaction will likely be reported or otherwise flagged.


Really all it takes is for one incident where someone gets killed. We live in a ban-happy society that doesn't consider the consequences of banning absolutely everything except maybe videogames.


When the technology improves sufficiently maybe there will be a drone the size of a dragonfly that land on targets and inject them with ricin or another poison. That requires a lot better targeting than a plastic container loaded with explosives and ball bearings, which just has to get close to the target. Still, it would make a great assassination tool.


Well, it will be 3 years next month since the first open source kinetic attack by non state actors using commercial off the self drones was conducted.

Frankly, I’m surprised it has taken 3 years for them to be used for kinetic attack by exceptionally well funded narcos.

Illicit use of drones has happened and will continue to grow.


I'm surprised that it has taken this long for all of it. I remember reading the news several years ago about how some small drones got close to Merkel. My first worry was about assassinations. Quadcopters aren't expensive or even very difficult to make.

How do you even stop something like that?


There are a range of options to defeat drones that include kinetic(birdshot and specialist shotgun rounds, netguns), non kinetic(electronic attack), as well as anti-drone drones(Anduril Industries). There have also been trials on using falconry to counter drones.


Without being an expert...

Shotguns, firing a net, anti-drone drones and also interfering with signals are all on the table.


I've been ghoulishly interested in the various US poorly-regulated militia since Malheur, and rationales behind their fetish for twentieth-century weaponry.

Reading that the "counterforce" against which they train resembles a BATF unit more than a military unit made me guess they might be hoping to contract for cartels, but that supposition was dashed upon finding that (at least on US soil) the cartels are far fonder of the bomb than the bullet.

Sixteenth-century vehicle borne improvised explosive devices: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hellburners


Bundy & Co. are a militia in the same way the James Gang was, or for that matter, the Wu-Tang Clan are. Disgruntled armed rural whites have been the bete noir of the urban reportorial class for so long that any crime, no matter how absurd, committed by guys in pickup trucks wearing cowboy hats is treated like the Austrian Anschluss.

Guaranteed acre-feet of press coverage; for the titillation of Euros who exoticize && Other the culture of the rural America.


The pattern to discern from articles like this is that they highlight the threat and not the difficulty of actually realizing the threat.

When you put two layers of improvisation into a weapon the odds of it working are very low. Building an effective homemade grenade is difficult. Delivering it with a noisy machine that limits the size of the grenade multiplies the odds of making a spectacular but ineffective attempt that will only get you noticed.

But it does increase the odds that some consultant will get hired by DHS to write an unreadable report about this supposed threat.



No mention of the software?

What worries me is that in a close future they might develop their own autonomous Software to do the assassinations and sooner or later the software "leaks" to outside world. Then with a few thousand dollars you can program your own assassination tools. More sophisticated entities will develop the swarm version to do mass damage.

Will there be a proliferation fears of software similar to nuclear proliferation?


The Black Mirror episode Hated in the Nation kind of touches on this.


"group opposed to dictatorial Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro"

Gee what great, totally-not-editorialized analysis from yet another military think tank pr writer.


I'm still somewhat surprised there have been no prominent terrorist attacks in Western countries by means of drones with payload.


Isn’t that just because the drone bit is easy and the payload bit is hard. Particularly in terms of procuring explosives, and making them effective and light enough for a drone to carry? Then you need a target that actually needs a drone to attack it versus doing something simpler.


Another example of how humans turn good tech into bad shit. Could all of this be solved by blowing up every explosives factory?


Drone swarms will definitely be a go-to standard in warfare soon. It has already been in use for a few years over in the ME.


I'm reminded of the failed assassination attempt against Venezuela leader Nicolas Maduro


Can someone make a new series of Robot Wars with drones? That would be fascinating viewing.


Interesting map, its crazy how often these groups fracture and splinter!

Really wish one of these would go publicly traded and report revenue, leading to real price discovery of these operations and ability to manage risk.

There are permissionless systems they can use now to list shares, and if they have a liquidity issue they just need to take over a dam and generate some electricity for themselves for their crypto mining hardware which will convert to currency.

I know I know, multiple topics for people to disagree with so I don't expect this to lead to a conversation about solutions today, I'm just making a note publicly that I perceived the possibilities before it happened.


During colonialism, you could buy stocks in companies erecting colonial empires, like the dutch east india company, or the british east india company. They had ships, troops, and actually did engage in trafficking if you can call that, by avoiding the silk road and its large dangers/taxes.


They also engaged in massive transcontinental drug trafficking, and in many cases were vertically integrated. They owned the land/fields, the people/slaves, the plantations, the drug crops/opium poppies, the processing chain, and also the sales, and the troops/armies were used to force people to take/buy drugs. If you refused to buy or take the drugs, they would burn your entire country down to ashes, and of course, enslave the people there to make more drugs.


Sounds kind of like what certain world powers do with oil and mining these days.


That’s because nothing has changed except we learned that it is easier to manage regions if you dont annex them and instead let the nearest bystander run the country.

The people there accept it and it is cheaper and you still get the resources for all eternity, which is all you really wanted.


Could you name a couple of countries they burned down because nobody would buy or take drugs?


The Opium Wars between China and the British Empire were a result of China's attempt to shut down the opium trade.

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Opium-Wars


Hong Kong is a geopolitical football because the Mayor of Hong Kong tried to stop a foreign corporation from getting their citizens addicted to drugs.

In accordance with British commercial law, the foreign corporation returned with the British Navy and took it over. And then kept pushing the drugs successfully.


Search for the opium wars, fascinating (and terrifying) stuff.


Is this a roundabout way of trying to associate cryptocurrencies with criminal groups?

In case this isn't obvious, no, there's no trustless way to make an entity distribute its real world profits to holders of a crypto token. We're talking about mafias here, groups which specialize in hiding money streams. Only enforcement from a real world judiciary system can enforce dividend distribution.


It doesn't need to be trustless.

Is this a roundabout way of trying to associate cryptocurrencies with a prerequisite of trustlessness for everything that uses them?

This is just corporations using permissionless architecture, there have been companies doing this on blockchains for almost 10 years. I used to own shares of SatoshiDice for the daily dividends it paid onchain from 2012-2013.

The market enforces the behavior. A cartel that pays nice dividends will have a better share price and deeper secondary market, allowing them and their employees to always sell shares for more money. A corporation that doesnt perform well for shareholders doesnt have the same market.

I think I’m the one specifically drawing no distinction between criminal groups and liquidity, because they are unrelated concepts.


Unless, of course, the same tokens were used to conduct the drug transactions.

Then all the token holders have an interest in preventing non-tokenized transactions.

This is all ridiculous (and evil of course) but it has a certain internally consistent logic to it.

Why would they adopt a new system given they've got such a good grip on current one?


Thats why they would mine virgin cryptocurrency.

I think people are conflating which crypto is used for what here lol, but thats predictable. There would be two cryptocurrencies involved: the share, and the cash-surrogate as profits.

Forget about the problems, think solutions and it will be easier to iterate towards and perceive a system that works.


If these groups effectively control territory, then maybe formalizing that control rather than trying to fight against it makes sense. That way, instead of a cartel trying to infiltrate and bribe the local law enforcement, the law enforcement could be paid a competitive and transparent monthly fee in return for helping to protect the cartel's territory. (This would mean arresting competing cartel members caught there, and giving immunity to members of the locally approved cartel who are caught in shoot-outs with their rivals).


Part of the issue is that the cartels have always provided a sort of summer camp for psychopaths.

Charles Bowden wrote a bit about how absolutely terrifying it was to be anywhere in the proximity of these organizations.

By formalizing it, you would be essentially giving a formal role to guys who cut people's limbs off with chainsaws and post videos of it on LiveLeak.

Fighting the cartels leads to unimaginable violence, and leaving them alone just leads to them infiltrating every single level of the Mexican government, and carrying on with the violence anyway.

It is the sorrow of the country to be situated by an accident of geography between the single biggest market for meth and cocaine on the planet (who also happens to sell lots of military-grade weapons to anyone with a pulse), and the largest cocaine producing region on the planet.


There are countries that routinely chop peoples heads off in a form of due process that we would not recognize or respect for seemingly minor actions. Even the most developed nations have laws to chop off the hands of thieves.

We vilify and drone people with the same belief systems merely because they are not associated with an existing state, non-state combatants.

There is simply no distinction I can lean on that would lead me to avoid formalizing reality. The concept of the state simply isn't legitimacy to me, it is just consensus. Cartels already have that consensus and act like public enterprises in their region.

Do notice, I’m not arguing for anything to occur, I am recognizing that nobody has to ask permission to achieve access to the capital markets and noticing how that fits types of organizations that are not welcomed in established capital markets.


If I understand correctly what you are saying, you are arguing that we take the world as it is, not as we wish it to be. I very much respect that position.

However, I would argue that there is definitely not a consensus. The Mexican people are fighting with their lives against these organizations.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grupos_de_Autodefensa_Comunita...

Mexico has a central government that is weak in some respects. Their judicial system is not what it needs to be. Certain transnational criminal organizations have taken advantage of this to establish enclaves of power.

That does not mean that they are recognized as legitimate political entities by the Mexican people and should be given some formal recognition of authority by the Mexican government or the country's neighbors.

Say my neighbor is in my front yard waving an AR-15 and screaming at me that trash day was yesterday and I need to bring my garbage cans in. I'm sure as hell not going out there to talk to him, but that doesn't mean I recognize him as the new de-facto mayor of my front yard. He's just the lunatic in my front yard screaming at me who I'm going to do my best to avoid, and hopefully at some point the cops will show up and get him out of my yard.


Right. Its a good message and diverges a bit from my point:

All organizations can access the capital markets now. It a waste of public resources from the “legitimate” states to try to whitelist transactions so stop burdening everyone over that because its pointless. The end.

I am curious how the market will value these enterprises if they begin giving steady dividends. The price discovery is fascinating.


I think there was sort of a formalization of territory when the Colombian cartels controlled the entire chain from production in the jungle to the sale in US streets.

The violence and territorial wars in Mexico since the early 2000s are as I understand it a direct consequence of the demise of the Colombian Cali and Medellín cartels, with numerous groups trying to fill the power vacuum left.

What you describe often is happening on a local level, but there will always be outbursts of violence somewhere as soon as someone threatens the "peace". Getting drugs into the US is just way too lucrative a business. The fighting will just keep shifting places as long as this is the case.


Cartels have a feudalists political structure. I don't think feudalism is really a thing in the modern world.


Your two sentences directly contradict each other.

What do you mean to say?


I think they meant the first descriptively and the second prescriptively.


Grain of salt and such, but here's a revenue figure I found in this very interesting 2020 congressional report "Mexico: Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking Organizations".

"By some estimates, Sinaloa had grown to control 40%-60% of Mexico’s drug trade by 2012 and had annual earnings calculated to be as high as $3 billion."

https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/R41576.pdf


Ah, crypto markets are big enough to accomodate their needs via mining now.


Publicly traded? How does that work for illegal operations? And as far as I'm aware crypto currencies really aren't profitable anymore, ignoring needing an internet connection, leading to tracing the transactions back to this hijacked dam.


What do you mean by profitable? A cartel could raise capital through some erc token that gives the holder the right to some sort of dividend.


The only issue for an illegal operation would be paying dividends, where they need to get their illicit cash to the shareholders.

This is solved by obtaining cryptocurrency and issuing that to shareholders whose record of ownership is tied to a cryptographic tradable share such as using the erc20 standard or erc1404 standard (for programmers that haven't really had an opportunity to see whats going on, these are just classes you can inherit, for design patterns that lead to fungible tradable assets), but obtaining enough cryptocurrency has been a challenge for an organization operating at this scale, as the electronic payment system generally isn't an option even when HSBC is helping, and the physical cash system for crypto system still isn't large enough.

These issues are solved by purchasing computational hardware instead to mine the equivalent amount of cryptocurrency. Mining is not very profitable because there are many people that don't mine for a profit, are the hints obvious enough. It can be at a huge loss as long the haircut on conversion to money is still better than the 20-30% haircut people tolerate in reintegrating illicit money to licit money without the advent of crypto. Regardless, it uses energy and a cartel is in a position to create energy. Either way, mining is extremely profitable for people with low energy costs, the idea of someone mining in their residential unit has been a misnomer for most of the decade.

Mining doesn't need to report your location. This is as simple as using a VPN to reach the mining pool. And if you have enough hardware not to need a mining pool then in many networks your IP address is not reported to the cryptocurrency network, but a VPN can still be a practical privacy measure for this, as you typically don't want cryptocurrency communities to know that you control much of the network.

The energy use itself will be the main giveaway, but only if someone finds an issue with the energy use.

"Mining or not" is still a red herring, its "can cartel obtain enough crypto or not to pay shareholders"

Regardless, in this model the newly minted cryptocurrency is paid out shareholders on record, the record being a share asset minted via the erc20 standard or erc1404 standard. Anybody would be able to buy a cartel share, and it wouldn't necessarily be flag worthy that some cryptocurrency was sent to an address that happened to have a cartel share. Either way it is down to the shareholder to further clean that crypto if they feel like they need to.

If something about this doesn't seem viable I think you also need to understand that not everyone needs fiat currency. These same shareholders don't necessarily ever need to go to a bank, as there are many investment opportunities in the parallel crypto economy, and enough people willing to exchange physical goods for cryptocurrency. The physical economy always being a tiny fraction of the investment economy. Not all shareholders need to worry about banks.

In the meantime, we get a clearer view of the universe of investible assets, and the drug market. Its only been one century of trying to draw a distinction between publicly traded companies as a higher standard of business processes and validation we respect, and marginalizing all others. Before, the East India Companies were the hottest things to trade, and were taking over countries specifically to sell them drugs. So people looking for yield won't draw a distinction, and the technology supports not needing to ask for permission.


The laundering of money using compute and electricity is a very interesting idea that I hadn't thought of before. It's certainly within the cartels power (as quasi-state entities) to obtain cheap/free electricity and start mining. Given the billions and billions in cash just sitting in warehouses, Cartels would presumably be very interested in any way, even with a 50 or more percent haircut, to turn this dirty money into clean money in a legit bank account. While a mining operation won't have enough capacity for probably even 1% of that amount of capital, you would have to imagine that cartel leaders would still probably be interested in such a scheme.

A fascinating idea, thanks for sharing


How much cash are we really talking about?

Miners earn in aggregate

$3.8 billion in ether @ $430 and an average of 3 Ether per block

$3.9 billion in bitcoin @ $11,500 and an average of 6.5 bitcoin per block

(Transaction fees are a significant portion of block revenue now due to the heavy activity on these networks, with Ethereum blocks often having more fees earned than the block reward)

So there is about $8 billion worth of cryptocurrency earned by miners each year, at current exchange rates and activity levels. Cartel just should not exceed 50% of that. Market can tolerate much more and they would be in fierce competition with other miners.

We live in a world where people want the exchange rates to double or increase by an order of magnitude, which means that 8 billion figure becomes 80 billion, it should be clear that we are on the cusp of a market becoming highly attractive to larger incumbent organizations.


Just taking over a dam - real life isn’t goldeneye


Okay. Then building energy producing resources themselves just like the state and respected corporate structures did. Maybe they could even employ people and build a surrounding town.


Just buy all the shares in an existing dam.

^Takeover bid* I believe they call it.

Hostile takeover bid is even a thing, and legal.


Or they could build one and even provide energy to a nearby town


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