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Drone delivery of contraband to Canadian prison fails

There’s a lot of talk these days about drone delivery. But there’s one kind of delivery that continues to pose a problem: Using a drone to drop contraband into a prison.

We’ve seen this before. And we’ve just seen it again. The latest happened in Canada, and it was apparently a pretty big drop, with a total value estimated by authorities at CAD $296k. Though authorities often are pretty generous with their estimates, it was still a lot of stuff.

Let’s find out more.

Warkworth Institution

That’s where this latest incident happened. Warkworth is a medium-security institution located in southern Ontario, about a two-hour drive east from Toronto. It houses approximately 625 inmates. And, like any prison, there’s always a demand for contraband.

And some people clearly think the best way to satisfy this demand is through drones.

Drone delivery to prison worth nearly CAD $300k

The news came in a release from Correctional Service Canada. It says the incident occurred on July 22, when a drone apparently dropped a pile of contraband. Staff noticed either the drone or the packages, which did not make it into the hands of the intended recipient:

…as a result of the vigilance of staff members, several packages of contraband were seized as a result of a suspected drone drop at Warkworth institution, a medium security facility. The seized items included a large quantity of tobacco and drugs. The total estimated institutional value of this seizure is $295,920. 

Drone countermeasures?

A growing number of prisons (along with many other secure facilities) are now deploying drone counter measures, intended to detect and potentially (with permission) disable and ground drones by interfering with the Command and Control (C2) link. The release hints that Warkworth Institution has some measures in place, but stops short of saying that it has any kind of counter-measure system:

The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) has measures in place to prevent contraband and unauthorized items from entering its institutions in order to help ensure a safe and secure environment for everyone. CSC also works in partnership with the police to take action against those who attempt to introduce contraband and/or unauthorized items into correctional institutions.

Tip line for drone delivery of prison contraband

Well, it’s not just for drone deliveries. But you can be certain the authorities would like to hear from anyone with tips:

CSC has set up a telephone tip line for all federal institutions so that it may receive additional information about activities relating to security at CSC institutions. These activities may be related to drug use or trafficking that may threaten the safety and security of visitors, inmates and staff members working at CSC institutions. The toll-free number, 1‑866‑780‑3784, helps ensure that the information shared is protected and that callers remain anonymous.

DJI Aeroscope

Of course, odds are good that the drone doing the delivering could well have been a DJI – simply because there are more DJI drones out there than any other brand. One of the proven solutions is the DJI Aeroscope, which can detect not only the model and trajectory of DJI products, but can also pinpoint the location of the pilot.

Aeroscope is a receiver system that is able to intercept communication between drones and their pilots. It provides law enforcement agencies with information on the make, model, speed, altitude, direction, registration, and if required, pilot ID information.

There are, of course, other options out there. One of the Canadian leaders in the drone counter-measure space is Bravo Zulu Secure, which even has maritime deployments to help detect (and potentially jam) drones used by pirates on the high seas to scope out how well-defended a potential target ship might be.

Image: Bravo Zulu Secure

We’ve actually written about Bravo Zulu Secure previously; the company has some proprietary, high-level tech. Might be a useful adjunct for guard towers.


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