Apparently drug runners are relying on an amazing bit of DIY gadgetry to smuggle cocaine into the US in increasing numbers: home-built submarines. Knocked together in the Colombian jungle, and costing up to a million bucks, they are actually semi-submersibles, since full diving is just a bit too sophisticated. Nevertheless, they can do up to 12 knots — not as fast as a cigarette boat, sure, but they're able to ferry up to 12 tons of the white stuff. And just like the real military versions they're hard to detect, so are proving tricky for the Coast Guard to catch.
So tricky in fact that the Coast Guard is pushing for a new law to make sailing an "unflagged" semi-sub illegal in international waters. This'll save them the bother of actually catching the slippery subs, which are often scuttled by the crew when they're about to be captured.
Apparently the designs are getting ever more sophisticated, with some being unmanned and remotely piloted, while other newer ones are even made of steel. Some are even painted blue to make detection more difficult. They were adopted, so the thinking goes, to get around the Coast Guard's tactic of shooting out the engine of smuggling boats: in a sub, the engine's protected underwater.
It's amazing to me that these things work in the first place: I mean, regardless of the potential illegal prize money, would you trust your life to a home-brew submarine? That's one hell of a MAKE project. [CNN]