According to, Mexican pot smugglers are increasingly using ultralight aircraft to fly loads of marijuana into the U.S. Pilots don’t land but instead drop the packaged marijuana in remote locations for ground crews to locate.


Despite the dangers of piloting such an aircraft – essentially a glorified hand glider with a small engine and rear propeller – at night without using lights, smugglers along the boarder are reportedly making such flights several times a week.


According to the Border Protection’s Air and Marine Operation Center “193 suspected incursions and 135 confirmed incursions by ultralights” occurred over a five and a half month period ending April 15, 2010.


Aside from the ultralights’ ability to avoid detection – pilots fly low to the ground and the aircraft is small and quiet – they can also be modified to carry 150 to 250 pounds of pot. Additionally, because the FAA doesn’t technically classify ultralights as “aircraft,” potential jail time for using ultralights to smuggle drugs is lighter than if a smuggler “used a car or small airplane.”


However, an Arizona congresswoman recently proposed the Ultralight Smuggling Prevention Act, which would increase sentences for such smuggling up to 20 years. Some officials are concerned that ultralight marijuana smuggling will lead to harder drugs like cocaine and heroin. Congresswoman Giffords called the planes “the latest threat to border security” in part because of their potential for carrying explosives into the country undetected.


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