If Tijuana’s new municipal government has its way, drones will fly over the northern Mexican border city in 2014. In an interview with the Mexican press, Mayor Jorge Astiazaran Orci, a member of President Pena Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party who took office at the beginning of December, said his administration is working with a California firm to deploy small drones as a means of fighting crime and carrying out other public safety tasks like detecting fires.
“It’s a strategy against delinquency. The public complains about home burglaries and robberies on mass transportation,” Astiazaran said. “These aircraft are very inexpensive compared with other types of technological instruments.”
Alejandro Lares, Tijuana public safety chief, said the drones will be operated by specially-trained municipal police assigned to the law enforcement agency’s command and control center.
Although money for the drone purchases is expected to be drawn from the approximately $30 million budgeted for municipal security in 2014, Tijuana officials still don’t know how many of the pilotless aircraft their resources will allow to be bought. According to Astiazaran, however, the goal is to cover at least nine districts of the city with drone surveillance.
Based across the border in California, 3D Robotics manufactures the drones eyed by Astiazaran’s administration. Founded in 2009, the firm is headed by Chris Anderson, former Wired magazine editor, and Jordi Munoz, a 27-year-old native of Baja California.
3D Robotics assembles its products at a Tijuana industrial park, while conducting the engineering and business ends of the work in the Golden State. The company recently received a boost when the Mayfield Fund invested $6 million in the border venture, bringing the drone manufacturer’s total funding to $35 million.
Mayor Astiazaran contended that 3D Robotics’ drones could yield savings to the city treasury, and each unit could monitor an area better than 10 police patrol cars. He insisted the drones have another benefit: “A drone isn’t going to become corrupt.”
Sources: El Universal, December 9, 2013. Wsj.com/VentureWire, December 4, 2013.