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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Lithuanian Was Smuggling Cigarettes with a Drone

As reported by Arstechnica:
Russian border guards near Kaliningrad “detained” a low-flying drone entering the country from Lithuania last week. According to a spokesperson for Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), it wasn’t on a spy mission—it was smuggling cigarettes.
The autonomous aircraft, which had a four-meter (13-foot) wingspan, flew close to the ground following GPS waypoints and released cigarette cartons from its cargo bay at designated drop zones. When captured, it was carrying 10 kilograms (about 22 pounds) of illicit cargo.
FSB press service chief Oleg Dzhurayev told the ITAR-TASS news service that the drone was built by a criminal organization operating in Russia and Lithuania, and it may have been used for other smuggling operations. Dzhurayev added that this was the first time Russian authorities have captured a foreign drone in the Kaliningrad region, a Russian “exclave” between Lithuania and Poland on the Baltic Sea.
Update: According to a report from, the members of the smuggling ring operating the drone have been arrested—and while it was built in Lithuania, the cigarettes were actually being smuggled to Lithuania from Russia. A 31-year old Lithuanian man had crossed the border legally, and met with a 51-year old Kaliningrad region resident, who helped him buy cigarettes to smuggle to Lithuania. The drone was essentially a set of wings on a skeleton of a fuselage, to which the boxes of cigarettes were strapped externally, as shown in the photos above and below:

Enlarge / The naked drone—a home-made system with radio and GPS control.

The FSB spokesman said that it was estimated that the body of the drone cost about 300 rubles—about $10 dollars. "The appearance of it is unpresentable, but if the plane was made ​​for criminal activity, so there is no reason to make him some kind of supermodel," said Dzhurayev. "And the main thing here is its filling. Due to the design it can lift up to 10 kilograms of cargo. Additionally, the unit could conduct surveillance, was equipped with a camera and had an automatic flight route which is set in advance."  The 500 packs of contraband cigarettes were worth about 25,000 rubles in Russia—around $700—but cigarettes sell for $4 or more a pack in Lithuania, so the haul could have yielded as much as a $1,300 profit per flight.