Most of the time when there is a legal issue involving the use of drones, it's because the owner flew the gadget in a restricted area—there are strict rules that govern the use of drones. In China, however, authorities arrested over two dozen suspects for allegedly using drones to smuggle Apple iPhone devices worth an estimated 500 million yuan (around $79.8 million in US currency).
A local Chinese report by the Legal Daily says 26 suspects used drones to life a pair of cables each measuring 660 feet long, and essentially creating a zip line between Hong Kong and Shenzhen, according to Reuters. Authorities then claim they waited until nighttime to lift and transport small bags filled with iPhones from one location to the other. Each bag contained around 10 iPhone handsets.
"It’s the first case found in China that drones were being used in cross-border smuggling crimes," Legal Daily said, based on information it obtained from Shenzhen customs during a press conference.
With the nighttime sky providing cover for the operation, the suspects were allegedly able to smuggle some 15,000 iPhones across the border in a single night. It took only seconds to lift a bag and send it on its way. Depending on your perspective, it's either a really clever operation, or a really dumb one since they were ultimately busted. Perhaps a little of both.
China is the largest manufacturer of drones. It also published several rules last year in hopes of preventing drones from flying into aircraft flight paths. One of those rules is that owners of consumer drones up to a certain weight have to register their craft using their real names.