A smuggling ring has been using DJI drones to enable the transport of refurbished iPhones into Shenzhen, China. According to customs officials in the city, those responsible were caught after flying 500 million yuan ($79.8 million) worth of smartphones from Hong Kong to Shenzhen.
Images released by the customs officers and published by Reuters appear to show a modified DJI Phantom 4, confiscated during the arrests of 26 suspects in Guangdong province, China. Instead of carrying all of those phones using the drones, it appears as though the Phantom 4s – most popular for aerial photography – ferried two 200-meter (660-feet) cables between Hong Kong and the mainland to enable the smuggling operation.
“It’s the first case found in China that drones were being used in cross-border smuggling crimes,” according to news outlet Legal Daily, citing a news conference held by Shenzhen customs last week.
Shenzhen Customs Tracking New Smuggling Methods
Shenzhen Customs have revealed that most of the smuggling operation was carried out in the middle of the night, with only a matter of seconds required to shift 10 iPhones at a time in bags using the cable system.
Authorities around the world have been seeing increased cases of drones smuggling contraband into prisons. Although it must be said that wide coverage of the issue has more to do the fact that drones are involved than the quantity of material making its way past guards.
According to Legal Daily, Shenzhen customs is adapting to the new threat from above, and will ramp up efforts to combat smuggling enabled by drones. Part of that process will, ironically, include using more drones, along with high-resolution monitors to spot smuggling activity.
The vast majority of consumer drones on the market are currently made in China, with many of those manufactured in Shenzhen.