Drug cartels now use ultralight aircraft to smuggle drug into U.S.

Published 29 April 2009

The drug cartels south of the U.S. border have a new weapon in their arsenal: Ultralight aircraft; these ultralights can carry up to 300 pounds of narcotics

Small, agile, and quiet; they soar high in the sky, but often fly just a few feet off the desert floor. Are we talking about the latest aircraft the U.S. military uses in Afghanistan? An improved UAV used to strike insurgents in Pakistan? No. We are talking about the latest technology in the arsenal of the drug cartels, technology used more and more in their campaign of smuggling narcotics into the United States.

FoxNews reports that a Predator UAV operated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents spotted an ultralight loaded down with more than 300 pounds of drugs near Tucson, Arizona — just one of a number of similar flights across the southwest in recent months.

At Arizona Ultralight Aviation, an airstrip that caters to these tiny aircraft, some fliers report that they have been approached by Mexican nationals looking to purchase ultralights. The Feds say they are not surprised. “This has been going on since prohibition — using aircraft to move merchandise,” said Dave Gasho of CBP. “Whether it’s legal or illegal. It’s still the fastest way to get something from one point to the other.”

For now, authorities are keeping their eyes on the sky and deploying radars in an effort to ground ultralight smugglers.