Smuggler drones might sound like enemies in a science fiction movie, but apparently, such drones have been caught in real life.

In one of the negative applications of the technology, smugglers were found to have used drones to help sneak $80 million worth of iPhones from Hong Kong to China.

Smugglers Caught Using Drones

Chinese authorities have just taken down a major smartphone smuggling operation that involves drone technology, arresting 26 people in connection with it.

The officials claimed that the smugglers used drones to fly a pair of 200-meter cables between Hong Kong and Shenzhen in mainland China. With the set-up, the smugglers, which usually carried out their operations after midnight, were able to transport small bags containing over 10 refurbished iPhones each in only seconds. In one night, as many as 15,000 iPhones may be smuggled between the two countries, the authorities said.

TechCrunch's Devin Coldewey provided a clearer explanation on how the drones were used by the smugglers. The assumption is that the drones first delivered the ends of the cables to Shenzhen, and flew back with the other end attached to them. The bags containing the iPhones could then be attached to the cable on the Hong Kong side, and if the drones flew straight up, the bags will slide down all the way to Shenzhen. Clever.

The smugglers often steal the iPhones or buy them at very low prices in Hong Kong, then sell them for a profit in China. This allows Chinese customers to acquire authentic iPhones, while smugglers get rich from their illegal business.

Good Applications For Drone Technology

Drone technology may have its bad side, such as when used to smuggle iPhones or sneak drugs into prisons. However, there are also many good applications for drones.

NASA is thinking about sending a drone to Mars as a companion to a new rover that will be sent to the Red Planet. While the Mars Rover 2020 will perform experiments on the ground such as trying to transform carbon dioxide to oxygen, the Mars drone will explore parts of the Red Planet that ground-based unmanned vehicles will find hard to reach.

Meanwhile, in Rwanda, drones are saving lives by delivering blood to hospitals at a fraction of the time, compared to when the blood is delivered by land. From about four hours, the blood arrives to remote parts of Rwanda in just 30 minutes. The drones travel at speeds of as fast as 60 miles per hour, and they release the package containing the blood with a parachute into the hands of waiting hospital staff.

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