Drone drug smuggling could be a real problem for UK prisons

Drones pose an “emerging threat” to UK prison systems, with criminals using them to fly drugs, mobile phones and other contraband to those incarcerated in British prisons.

Drone drug smuggling could be a real problem for UK prisons

Obviously, a DJI Phantom 3 isn’t going to airlift someone out of prison. But, by increasing the amount of illicit goods circulating inside a prison, they make it harder for order to be kept and prisoner safety to be maintained.

A bigger worry, according to the National Offender Management Service, is that weapons could be dropped into jails. It’s not an irrational fear either, as The Independent states a package the same size and weight of a gun was dropped unnoticed into a maximum security prison during covert testing earlier this year.

Drone drug smuggling - octocopter drone

Currently, drone-related incidents are low. In the first five months of 2015 there were nine attempts across UK prisons, but the fear is that organised criminals will ramp up their efforts as the unmanned vehicles drop in price and become more commonplace in our skies.

“In a nutshell, our intelligence suggests that the use of UAVs to release items into our prisons is an emerging threat,” stated Eve Richard, a senior analyst at NOMS. “It’s not a huge issue at the moment but there is the potential for it to increase and become more of an issue.”

The smuggling of drugs, weapons and bartering tools like cigarettes into prisons has been happening for as long as prisons and jails have existed – it’s where that old gag of a “cake filled with files” comes from. Clearly airdrops via drones is just the technological advancement of this, posing a new challenge to UK prisons in how to tackle the problem. As far as the NOMS and UK prison system knows, there’s no evidence to suggest drones have been used to successfully smuggle contraband into prisons. But, as technology advances, it’s sure to become more likely with time.

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