US Cracks Down on Drug Smugglers in Ultralight Planes

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Traffickers are increasingly using ultralight aircraft to transport drugs into the United States from Mexico, prompting the Senate to pass a bill aimed at clamping down on the use of the planes by drug traffickers.

In less than six months, US border officials have recorded more than 200 incidents of ultralight planes transporting drugs across Mexican border, reports El Universal. In May, a Senate press release revealed that the number of incidents involving ultralight planes had almost doubled in the last fiscal year.

Ultralight aircraft are favored by drug traffickers because they are difficult to detect by radar. They are also relatively inexpensive, quiet and can fly at night without lights. Traffickers frequently use them to make aerial drug drops under cover of darkness, without landing on US soil.

The Ultralight Aircraft Smuggling Prevention Act of 2011, sponsored by Senators Tom Udall and Dean Heller, was passed by Congress last week and will now be given to the US House of Representatives for consideration. “The current law has loopholes, and the traffickers who use ultralight aircraft receive minor penalties compared with those who traffic in planes or cars,” said Heller.

However, despite the introduction of the new bill, US officials remain at a disadvantage in detecting the planes, and better techonolgy will be needed if the authorities are to cut down on their use.

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