Authorities jailed ten people for taking part in a plot to smuggle cannabis and mobile phones into prisons using drones. The "drone gang" made at least 49 flights into prisons in England and Scotland, from July 2015 through May 2017. Cameras set up to capture wildlife activity outside a prison in Worcestershire caught the gang in the act, according to a report from BBC.
Craig Hickinbottom, a 35-year-old inmate, led the operation from inside prison. He received a sentence of seven years and two months for his role. The drone pilot, Mervyn Foster, received a sentence of six years and eight months. In total, Hickinbottom’s team smuggled between £600,000 and £1m of goods into prisons across the UK, authorities said.
The smugglers strapped the items onto the drones with fishing line and hooks and then flew the drones over the prison walls. Inmates would reportedly grab them using broom handles or makeshift hooks.
Drones delivering contraband into prisons is a widespread problem. Similar incidents have happened in the United States, including when a drone crash landed at a Georgia prison and when a drone crashed into a prison yard in Arizona.
As the use of drones to smuggle contraband over prison walls becomes more common, correctional facilities stand to benefit by installing drone detection systems. Drone detection countermeasures can integrate into existing security systems.