Invasion of the Mexican Drones!

Drug gangs are one thing. But now Mexican unmanned drones are messing with Texas. Will this aggression stand?

Earlier this week, a 7-foot drone crashed into someone's backyard in El Paso, damaging nothing. Via our friend Paul McLeary at Ares, the El Paso Times discovers its origins: no hobbyist's toy, the drone was the property of the Mexican government, a rail-launched Orbiter recon drone made by the Israeli firm Aeronautics Defense Services. Someone ought to build a fence (higher than the Orbiter's max altitude of 18,000 feet)!

It appears to be a case of border security gone wrong. The Mexican government has been testing the Orbiter for help monitoring the border, U.S. officials told MSNBC, and this one malfunctioned and crashed. Federal officials solemnly returned the wayward drone to their Mexican counterparts. Curiously, a representative from the Mexican attorney-general's office declaimed any knowledge of the drone crash.

McLeary notes that it's hardly a mystery why the Mexican government would want the drones hovering near that stretch of border: it's right by violence-riven Ciudad Juarez, a drug-cartel-plagued city that has seen a stunning 3000 murders in 2010, thanks in part to a veritable flood of American guns. The drones might as well fly, because very little else is working. A recent paper from the Center for a New American Security analogized the region's violence to an insurgency. The Mexican Army went into the city in 2008 bearing artillery.

Which makes it a little curious why Mexico's only messing around with tiny drones like the Orbiter. General Atomics recently got export-control approval to sell the Predator - sans missiles - to non-NATO countries for surveillance usage. On the other hand, if the Mexican government can't keep a drone with a 3-pound-plus payload in the air, maybe a slow transition into the world of unmanned aircraft is good thing.

Photo: Aeronautics Defense Services


Invasion of the Mexican Drones!Wired.com has been expanding the hive mind with technology, science and geek culture news since 1995.