The Project

The project ARIEN – “ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE IN FIGHTING ILLICIT DRUGS PRODUCTION AND TRAFFICKING” is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under Grant Agreement No. 101121329.

ARIEN has a duration of 36 months and the project’s official start date is 1st of November 2023.
The project, ARIEN, seeks to implement a comprehensive workplan aligned with the 2021-2025 EU Drugs Action Plan. Utilizing a holistic innovation approach and AI tools, it aims to create a real-time intelligence framework for monitoring illegal drug production and trafficking in the EU. ARIEN's multi-disciplinary research adopts a co-creation strategy, addressing criminological, societal, and legislative aspects. It will provide recommendations for harmonization and develop modular AI solutions while ensuring legal and ethical compliance. The project focuses on enhancing law enforcement's investigative capabilities by leveraging AI to monitor online illicit drug markets, identify physical drug-dealing hotspots through social media, and analyze emerging threats in drug-related crime networks. ARIEN also aims to promote effective international cooperation among EU and non-EU law enforcement agencies, Customs, Border Guards Authorities, and policymakers, using AI techniques to strengthen investigative activities against criminal groups.
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The EU's commitment to combating illicit drug trafficking is reiterated in the EU Drugs Strategy and Action Plan 2021-2025. Despite past efforts, the trafficking of illegal drugs continues to grow in complexity, involving both organized criminal groups and individual perpetrators engaging in various related crimes.

The dynamic supply chain and evolving criminal actors benefit from numerous enablers, including online tutorials and accessible legal technologies for setting up illegal drug labs in ordinary facilities.

The use of digital channels, especially the dark web, for purchasing illicit drugs increased during the COVID-19 lockdown and is likely to persist.

The involvement of cryptocurrencies in financial transactions further complicates the identification of suspects. Criminals exploit dense networks of mail and home delivery services to reach consumers.

In this challenging scenario, Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) and Border Guard Authorities (BGAs) seek enhanced technological support and regulatory actions for coordinated international drugs intelligence and investigative analysis, leveraging effective Artificial Intelligence (AI) techniques.



ARIEN proposes the execution of a comprehensive workplan that thoroughly addresses the call topic aligned to the EU Drugs Action Plan achieved through a holistic innovation action that builds a real-time intelligence picture of drugs trafficking incidence across the EU.

Bolstered by AI-driven tools, the capabilities to detect, analyse and track the drugs trafficking chain, online and offline are such tools that will prioritise cooperation between LEAs, BGAs, customs and postal services in and outside the EU.

Cooperative knowledge from a network of agencies will assist in discovering trafficking routes, balanced by a dissection of the legislative parameters and loopholes that inform regulatory recommendations for the harmonisation of laws, regulatory compliance and cross-border international cooperation


ARIEN will make a measurable and sustained impact on the capacity of the EU to tackle the criminal phenomenon and activities of illicit drugs production and trafficking taking a combined societal, technological, and regulatory approach underpinned by a common need for harmonised procedures across borders, organisations and political unions

  • ARIEN aims to improve intelligence on drug production and trafficking in Europe through an integrated AI platform, addressing modus operandi, online and offline aspects, cross-border dimensions, and emerging trends.
  • European law enforcement benefits from validated tools and training materials for tackling drug-related criminal activities, ensuring awareness, and enhancing operational capabilities.
  • ARIEN delivers harmonized EU procedures, contributing to a unified interface for searching and retrieving information on national, EU, and international drug databases, web sources, social media, darknet, IoT, and aerial/satellite images.
  • The project enhances the ability to prevent and respond to organized crime networks involved in drug production, respecting fundamental rights, by providing AI-driven intelligence and tools for data sharing, evidence collection, and analysis.
  • ARIEN improves the monitoring of dual-use chemicals for drug production, analyzing the supply chain, criminal modus operandi, and recommending legislative measures and international collaboration.
  • European police and border guard authorities benefit from improved cooperation strategies, knowledge sharing, and proactive international collaboration, contributing to the fight against drug trafficking and dismantling related criminal networks.

ARIEN supports security policymakers by delivering a comprehensive analysis of the drug trade, criminal modus operandi, and related issues, enhancing policy regulation in the fight against drug production and trafficking.

Project Structure

ARIEN is organised into



WP 1 – Project Management
This work package aims to coordinate and monitor the project's progress, ensuring adherence to budget and deadlines. It involves producing regular activity and cost reports, organizing meetings, overseeing quality management, supervising innovation activities, and ensuring the achievement of milestones. Additionally, it supports Security Advisory Board activities, reports to the Commission on SELP aspects, and intervenes in risk management and conflict resolution when necessary.
WP 2 - Societal, Ethical, Legal, Privacy issues
The main goal is to assess the legal and ethical implications of the developed tools. Due to a lag in laws and regulations with technological advancements, guidelines for a reliable application of legal and ethical principles are crucial. Activities involve ethics and data protection impact assessments, legal framework analysis, and establishing a workflow for the consistent application of data protection principles throughout the project's lifecycle.
WP 3 – Illegal drugs chain analysis, use cases and framework specification
The main objectives of this WP are to identify use cases and requirements under multiple perspectives (operational, ethical, legal, privacy), to draft ARIEN framework specification and design the correspondent architecture.
WP 4 – AI-based tools for discovering and investigating on illegal drug production and trafficking
This WP aims at delivering tools for discovering and monitoring potentially illegal activities in physical and digital sources. Specifically, it focuses on tools for detecting illegal cultivations, analysing parcels at border controls through scanning and X-ray image analysis, discovering drug-related contents (links to black markets, manuals, jargons, precursors, etc.) on Surface web and Social Media, and identifying hidden connections between markets in the Darknets.
WP 5 – Trustworthy AI-based techniques to inquire into the illegal drugs chain
This WP will detect suspected transactions in crypto-currency networks and possibly de-anonymise involved actors, identify potential threats from multilingual text, and spot relevant clues from images and videos forming a basis for high-level intelligence. The WP also includes the creation of SELP compliant datasets to train related AI/ML algorithms.
WP 6 – AI driven Intelligence picture on drugs production and trafficking
The objectives of this WP are to correlate, match and generate actionable intelligence and trends to identify illicit activities related to drugs trafficking and production from low-level information, to track the routes of drugs supply chains and routes, to recognise networks of actors, to detect links to other criminal activities (terrorism in particular), to identify emerging trends and recurrent patterns from the available information. The generated intelligence will be exploited to support information sharing among LEAs and policy makers.
WP 7 – Demonstration in relevant and operational environment
This WP aims to define pilot scenarios, prepare, plan and execute pilots rounds to demonstrate the framework in relevant environment, evaluate and assess the results from pilot executions, and provide feedback to technical partners for refinements and/or improvements.
WP 8 - Impact, dissemination, exploitation and training
This work package focuses on impact, dissemination, exploitation, training, and community building. It establishes detailed communication, dissemination, and exploitation plans to reach target audiences during and after the project. Workshops, demonstrations, and training activities will showcase ARIEN's solutions and provide specific knowledge to EU law enforcement agencies (LEAs). The creation of a network, including LEAs, BGAs, prosecutors, forensic experts, and public/private organizations, aims to strengthen ARIEN's impact and contribute to the EU Drugs Action Plan.
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