Publication:
Fifty feet above the wall: cartel drones in the U.S.-Mexico border zone airspace, and what to do about them

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Authors
Schmersahl, Aaron R.
Subjects
U.S.–Mexico border
drug cartel
emerging threat
disruptive technology
organizational learning
operational control
hostile drones
narco-drones
deviant innovation
C-UAS
Advisors
Nieto-Gomez, Rodrigo
Date of Issue
2018-03
Date
Mar-18
Publisher
Monterey, California: Naval Postgraduate School
Language
Abstract
Over the last decade, the U.S. military and homeland security research groups have contemplated the issue of how to counter unmanned drones. Recently, border security agencies responsible for securing the U.S.–Mexico border are having to contend with the emerging threat of Mexico’s drug cartel narcotics-smuggling drones, also known as narco-drones. Narco-drones are an example of cartel innovation for smuggling, among other deviant purposes, that U.S. border security will need a strategy to counter. This study aimed to build on the conceptual framework related to hostile drones in the airspace and specifically to find a strategy that the Department of Homeland Security could pursue to manage the narco-drone problem in the border-zone airspace. The author argues that the Mexican drug cartels adopt innovative drone tactics in response to border security measures or lack thereof, as well as through organizational learning. This thesis concludes that leveraging U.S. military experience, anti-drone doctrine, and detection assets -developed for countering terrorist drones in the war zones of Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan is an effective strategy for countering narco-drones at the U.S.–Mexico border.
Type
Thesis
Description
Series/Report No
Department
National Security Affairs (NSA)
Organization
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NPS Report Number
Sponsors
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Citation
Distribution Statement
Approved for public release; distribution is unlimited.
Rights
This publication is a work of the U.S. Government as defined in Title 17, United States Code, Section 101. Copyright protection is not available for this work in the United States.
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