Police Capture Massive 5-Engine Drone That's Used for Drug Transportation

Capable of flying 7 hours non-stop, it could transport 330-pound payloads to Spain all the way from Morocco.
Ameya Paleja
The drone used to ferry drugsNational Police Force, Spain

We have told you before you how drones are being used in warfare and how artificial intelligence is going autonomous. But the ingenuity of the human mind is above anything else. On the trail of some drug traffickers, Spanish authorities came across an almost 15 feet (4.5m) wide drone that was being used to ferry drugs, a local news outlet reported. 

This is not the first time, Spanish authorities have come across something like this. Unidad de Droga Y Crimen Organizado — or UDYCO in short — is a specialized crime unit of the National Police Force of Spain. It looks into reports of Drugs and Organized Crime. Last year, when following a lead, UDYCO came across a 30 foot (9m) long semi-submersible vessel that was being used to smuggle drugs.

This time, the perpetrators went aerial, with a drone. 

UDYCO was on the lookout for a French drug trafficking gang, who was also wanted by the French Police. Operating out of the sparsely populated region of Almáchar in Southern Spain, the gang was looking to establish themselves on Costa de Sol, a popular tourist destination. UDYCO's search led them to a storage house for narcotics outside Almáchar, where along with 66 pounds (30 kg) of marijuana and 121 pounds (55kg) of hashish, the authorities also found a big white drone. 

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Made in China, the drone has a total of five motors, four of them are electric and allow it to take off and land vertically. The fifth motor is a two-cylinder internal combustion engine that supports horizontal flight. With a maximum speed capacity of 105 miles per hour (170 km/h), the drone can fly at an altitude of 7000 feet (2000 m). The Spanish police, however, estimate the drone flew at lower altitudes to save fuel and avoid being detected. 

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Priced between €30,000 and €150,000 (US $35,000 - $176,000), the drone was operated using an electronic system that relayed the origin and destination along with all the waypoints along the way. It could be flown remotely but the gang was not very aware of its technical capabilities, the Spanish police told the media outlet. They hollowed the front of the drone (which would typically sport equipment such as cameras) to transport their cargo from Morocco to Almáchar.  The dismantleable drone has a wingspan of 15 feet (4.5m), big enough to be detected on radar. Along with its detectable telecommunication, its large size led to its discovery and then tracking to its location. 

Thankfully, the gang did not go for a more aggressive approach with the drones

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