Friday, June 21, 2024

National Guard preparing to acquire fleet of 200 drones

The National Guard (GN) is preparing to acquire a fleet of drones to help combat drug cartels, according to documents obtained by the newspaper Milenio. 

The purchase of at least 200 aerial and aquatic drones and associated communication centers is valued at over 203 million pesos, making the acquisition potentially the largest purchase of its type ever recorded in Mexico, according to Milenio. 

The National Guard has become a key player in the fight against drug trafficking. (Moisés Pablo/Cuartoscuro)

The drones will be used to strengthen surveillance and combat operations against drug cartels, as well as kidnapping and extortion gangs, according to the budget request document obtained by Milenio.

The 44-page document, submitted by the Security Ministry in 2022 — before the National Guard came under the purview of the Defense Ministry (Sedena) — outlines how the drones will capture high-resolution footage of illegal activities carried out by organized crime groups. They will be equipped with zoom, electromagnetic protection, thermal imaging techniques, and mapping functions to assist them with operations. 

“It will be possible to alert operational personnel in real-time, as well as to prevent crimes such as drug trafficking, kidnapping, and extortion, among others,” the document said. 

“The project consists of acquiring aerial and aquatic drones that have modern technological capabilities, where the photo and video sensors have characteristics allowing them to obtain quality footage, as well as communication analysis equipment to protect the physical integrity of the pilots and the certainty of the mission,” the document noted. 

Maya Train rendering
Drones will also be used to protect the Maya Train as it travels through sparsely-populated regions of the Yucatán peninsula. (Fonatur)

“The operational and technical capacities of the National Guard will be improved, in order to generate useful inputs for investigative tasks and material elements for the evidentiary assessment of the crime,” it also said. 

The project will also use resources to improve the capabilities of mechanical and electronic service centers to maintain the drones. 

The drones will allow the GN to streamline their operations, explained Universidad de las Américas Puebla (UDLAP) security specialist Gerardo Rodríguez. 

“This is an international trend. Most of the national police forces, as well as military forces around the world, are acquiring these magnificent technologies, which save resources on air and sea deployments while also detecting clandestine clues.” 

“So, the truth is that cost-benefit is very high for the National Guard.” 

Security specialist David Saucedo also emphasized the benefits for the GN of acquiring the aquatic drones, noting that they can prevent the chemical precursors used in the making of synthetic drugs such as fentanyl from entering the country. 

The GN already has a fleet of drones, although a July 2022 report by the newspaper Forbes México claimed that few GN members had the capacity to fly them, which raises questions about the efficacy of the new purchase. 

The GN says it intends to train additional individuals to operate them. 

According to Milenio, Sedena has put out at least six tenders to buy drones. However, only one — for the acquisition of 99 pieces of equipment — is still open, while the others have either been rescinded or the agency did not make the related documents public. The request for the 99 items was made public on March 29.

In February, Minister of Defense Luis Cresencio Sandoval announced that the GN will use 28 drones to help secure the Maya Train, which spans five different states over 1,554 kilometers. 

With reports from Milenio. Forbes México and El Universal 

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