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Fifty Feet Above The Wall: Cartel Drones in the U.S.-Mexico Border Zone Airspace, and What to do About Them

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Technical Report

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Naval Postgraduate School Monterey United States

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Over the last decade, the U.S. military and homeland security research groups have contemplated the issue of how to counter unmanned drones. Recently, border security agencies responsible for securing the U.S.Mexico border are having to contend with the emerging threat of Mexicos drug cartel narcotics-smuggling drones, also known as narco-drones. Narco-drones are an example of cartel innovation for smuggling, among other deviant purposes, that U.S. border security will need a strategy to counter. This study aimed to build on the conceptual framework related to hostile drones in the airspace and specifically to find a strategy that the Department of Homeland Security could pursue to manage the narco-drone problem in the border-zone airspace. The author argues that the Mexican drug cartels adopt innovative drone tactics in response to border security measures or lack thereof, as well as through organizational learning. This thesis concludes that leveraging U.S. military experience, anti-drone doctrine, and detection assets developed for countering terrorist drones in the war zones of Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan is an effective strategy for countering narco-drones at the U.S.Mexico border.

Subject Categories:

  • Pilotless Aircraft
  • Civil Defense

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