Narco Drones Got Caught Delivering Drugs to a Prison in Chile

The scheme is another example of how drones are being used to smuggle contraband and drugs into penitentiaries around the world.
July 23, 2021, 2:24pm
A quadcopter drone hovering during a flight in front of the sun. ​A similar devices was recently discovered being used to smuggle drugs into a prison in Chile.
A quadcopter drone hovering during a flight in front of the sun. A similar devices was recently discovered being used to smuggle drugs into a prison in Chile. Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images.

Prison inmates and accomplices on the outside have been using drones to smuggle drugs over the walls of the country’s oldest penitentiary. 

Authorities discovered the scheme to move drugs into the Ex Penitenciaría, a violent Santiago prison built 178 years ago that continues to operate despites its name. It is one of the country’s most crowded, according to prominent Chilean news outlet Bío Bío.

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An investigation found that at least three inmates already serving sentences connected to drug trafficking have been implicated in the drone smuggling, discovered in mid-May, as well as running a distribution network behind bars. The prisoners had previously been sanctioned for allegedly possessing cell phones and drugs while in prison.

Bío Bío reported that a source familiar with the investigation said that drones had been seen flying over the prison without drugs, essentially conducting test runs to see if the drones could be detected by prison security. But in May authorities discovered both drugs and two propellor-activated devices on top of one of the prison's buildings.

The Chilean inmates are far from the first group to use drones to feed a flourishing drug trade behind prison walls. The trend was first noted in 2013 in the United States in a Georgia prison and has become a constant focus of law enforcement efforts to combat contraband entering U.S. prisons. In the United Kingdom, authorities caught a gang responsible for 55 drone deliveries into prisons around the country between 2016-2017.

The use of drones to smuggle contraband into prisons represents a larger trend of criminal groups around the world using drones in novel ways in recent years.

Earlier this month, authorities in Spain seized what is believed to be the largest drug drone ever in Europe. Found in a warehouse, it had been used by a French gang to smuggle drugs from Morocco to Spain. The drone could reportedly hold over 300 pounds of cargo in a special compartment in its nose, had a wingspan of roughly 14 feet with a maximum speed of more than 100mph and a flight range of seven hours.

In Mexico, drug cartels have experimented with using drones to attack enemies and authorities. An organized crime group in the western state of Michoacan used drones to drop explosives on a local police headquarters in April, injuring two cops.