Small Wars Journal

Criminal Drone Evolution: Cartel Weaponization of Aerial IEDs

Drones have become part of the contemporary landscape of conflict and crime. Like all technological developments, they start small and limited and then spread as their advantage becomes clear to their expanding user base. This text explores the proliferation of aerial drones—or Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS)—among the Mexican Cartels and gangs. This collection documents the evolution of drone usageby criminal cartels, gangs, and criminal armed groups (CAGs) in Mexico and beyond. It demonstrates the development spread of drone technology and tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) among criminal actors while also pointing toward future potentials.

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