Central American Drug Compound Recon

By October 5, 2010Case Studies
Central American Drug Compound Recon

Military-led mission to gain reconnaissance on a suspected drug lord’s compound.  Use the aerial intelligence to plan the details of a raid on the compound and arrest the suspect.


Date: November 2009
Location: Central America

Raiding a Central American narco-trafficker’s compound is a difficult and extremely dangerous task. Typically, traffickers not only control their compound but also the surrounding impoverished area, making it extremely difficult to use local informants for intelligence without compromising the security of the mission. With little knowledge of the compound’s security measures, its layout, or even who is currently home, preparing and conducting raids is extremely risky for officers.

For this particular mission to be safe and successful, counter-narcotics forces required a better understanding of the surrounding area, close-target imagery of the compound, and confirmation that the target was there. With this intelligence at hand, officers would know how to best approach the target while avoiding its cameras and wire obstacles, how best to breach the walls of the compound, where the guards are located, where the target lives within the compound, possible escape routes, and what vehicles are present. With hostile locals making the use of local informants impractical, the Aeryon ScoutTM was dispatched to get the necessary intelligence from the air.

The reconnaissance team entered the area in two civilian vehicles at night, dismounted and walked several kilometres to a small open area approximately 1 km northwest of the target. The Scout was launched at 0645 hours, rising vertically to 39 metres to remain covert. Using the GPS map-based interface and intelligent camera payload, the Scout was in place with a visual of the target within 4 minutes of take-off.

For the next six minutes the target and surrounding area was visually recorded and photographed. Using the encrypted video stream, several people were seen working in and around the compound, but they did not see or hear the Scout. With the necessary imagery secure, the Scout was recalled. Total flight time was 12 minutes.


  • Operation needed to be covert so suspect was not alerted
  • Weather conditions were variable so reasonable wind thresholds needed to be managed
  • Take off point required to be beyond line of sight from target
  • Single operator to control both the UAV and the camera was desired
  • Camera and UAV needed to be controlled beyond line of sight of the UAV
  • Obstacles surrounding the take-off point required vertical take-off and landing
  • Real-time video needed to be streamed to multiple outputs
  • Continuous monitoring of the still target required hover and stare capabilities


Mission Facts taken from the Aeryon Scout log file

  • Flight Duration: 12 minutes
  • Outdoor Temperature: 21C
  • Total Distance Travelled: 1700m
  • Distance from Take-Off: 700m
  • Maximum Altitude: 39m
  • Max Speed: 22 kmh
  • Wind Speed at Take-off: 4 kmh
  • Max Wind Speed: 16 kmh
  • Photos Taken (of target): 14
  • Recorded Video (of target): 6 minutes



  • Pre-raid reconnaissance was completed with a single 12 minute flight, using one UAV operator
  • Pre-raid plan was completed using reconnaissance to minimize risk to military personnel
  • Using the Pre-raid plan, security forces raided the compound and secured the suspect
  • Arrest successful with no loss of life