Technology

Federal prison officers are worried drones could one day be used to airlift inmates to freedom

Drones have been an issue for prisons for years now, the place they’re usually used to smuggle contraband behind bars. But could in addition they get inmates out of prison by airlifting them over the partitions? That’s one fear expressed by federal prison officers in a new report on the subject from the Department of Justice (DOJ).

The report is basically an summary of how federal prisons observe and mitigate the risk posed by drones. Much of it’s given over to complaints concerning the forms concerned in reporting drone incidents, and the issue in figuring out and implementing efficient drone countermeasures. The total discovering is that drones are solely going to turn into a higher drawback for prisons in future, and that the federal government isn’t doing sufficient about it.

“We found that the BOP [Federal Bureau of Prisons] faces significant and growing challenges to protect its facilities from drone threat,” state the report’s authors. “Drones have been used to deliver contraband to inmates, but could also be used to surveil institutions, facilitate escape attempts, or transport explosives.”

Right now it appears drones are solely actually used for smuggling contraband. The report cites one incident through which a drone was recovered from a federal prison carrying a bundle containing “20 cell phones, 23 vials of injectable drugs, dozens of syringes, and multiple packages of tobacco, among other contraband items.” The BOP solely started monitoring drone incursions in 2018 and recorded 23 incidents that yr. This elevated to 57 incidents in 2019, however the report notes that this determine is probably going an underestimate.

A drone recovered from a federal prison carrying a bundle containing medication, cell telephones, and tobacco.
Image: BOP

In the longer term, although, federal prison officers are worried drones could be put to different, extra nefarious functions. Officers cited within the report had been involved that industrial drones could be armed with explosives and used to assault them (a tactic used by some terrorist groups like ISIS) and that future drones could be used to allow inmates to escape from prison. (An apart within the report first spotted by journalist Brad Heath on Twitter.)

“BOP officials told us that future devices may even have payload capabilities that could allow for the lifting of an adult out of a prison,” says the report. “Given trends in both the industry and observed incidents involving drones at prisons, the threat posed by drones to BOP facilities will likely increase as drone technology continues to advance.”

Although the concept of utilizing a drone to airlift somebody out of prison sounds fantastical, it’s not truly unimaginable. Some drones are actually able to lifting human beings, and various fans have made their very own DIY plane that do exactly that.

However, these kinds of payload capabilities aren’t low cost or accessible. Part of the rationale drones are being used to smuggle contraband is that the tools can be purchased for just a few hundred {dollars}. Creating a drone able to carrying a human being, although, would price rather more than that and require an excessive amount of technical experience. The drone would additionally be noisy — the equal of utilizing a small helicopter for an escape. Anyone planning a breakout might be going to look to extra typical strategies first.

Drone airlifts apart, the DOJ remains to be stepping up its countermeasures. The report says the DOJ and BOP are “in the early stages of researching and evaluating a multitude of technologies and solutions offering both affirmative use and counterdrone capabilities.” As of February 2020, the BOP has been granted $5.2 million by the federal authorities to buy drone “detection and mitigation systems,” but it surely says it needs extra.

However, the report can also be skeptical concerning the effectiveness of those instruments. It notes that “many vendors of counter-drone technologies offer unproven capabilities or results that may only be achievable in a controlled environment.”

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