Prisoners Using Drones to Smuggle Contraband

Originally published on August 18, 2014, at

Defying conventional smuggling techniques, drone operators around the world are using a new method to sneak drugs, tobacco, cell phones, and other contraband into prisons. Capable of flying great distances, drones stashed with illicit packages can easily bypass prison walls to complete their deliveries. Many guards complain that they lack the proper ammunition to shoot down the drones.

The most recent drone was discovered on July 21, 2014, at a prison in Thailand. After receiving a tip-off about smuggling, guards at the Khao Bin prison reviewed surveillance footage and discovered a drone snagged on a tree branch inside the compound. The DJI Phantom drone they found was a quadcopter equipped with a GoPro video camera and a Wi-Fi signal range extender. Taped to the drone were two Nokia cell phones, two Bluetooth devices, four SIM cards, an integrated circuit and a pair of earphones. The drone operator escaped and is still at large.

On April 21, 2014, guards at Lee Correctional Institution in South Carolina discovered a drone while conducting a routine perimeter check outside the prison. Officials believe the downed unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) crashed into the prison’s 12-foot-tall razor wire fence and landed in the bushes. The drone had been carrying marijuana, cell phones, tobacco, and synthetic marijuana.

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