Another Attempt to Smuggle Drugs into Prison by Drone, Thwarted

A drone flying drugs to inmates at an Ireland prison was caught when it crash-landed.

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Jun 26 2014, 11:30am
Image: Sergey Kamshylin/Shutterstock

An inmate in a Dublin prison is in solitary confinement on 24-hour watch until authorities retrieve contraband from him that was smuggled into the medium-security joint via drone. Translation: prison authorities will be waiting until he takes a shit and then combing through his poop for drugs. Gross.

On Tuesday morning, the remote-controlled quadcopter drone crash-landed in the exercise yard of Wheatfield Prison in west Dublin. Prison authorities explained to the Irish Independent that they suspect the drone wasn’t supposed to land in the prison, but “just hover over it until the inmates got their hands on the contraband.” Instead, the drone got caught on anti-helicopter wires. One of the inmates swallowed the package before guards could interfere. Now, the drone is in the hands of the Garda, the Irish police, who are investigating the incident. 

This botched smuggling attempt is only the latest in a string of drone-facilitated prison drug-smuggling operations. From Melbourne to Quebec, it’s becoming a more and more common way of getting intoxicants on the inside. 

And drugs aren’t the only things being air-lifted in. An intercepted drone at Calhoun State Prison in Georgia last November had cell phones and binoculars in addition to tobacco. 

While prison guards around the world are trying to thwart inmates' attempts at drone smuggling, at least one prison in Ohio is considering using drones to police its grounds

But expect the prison drone wars to play out with much less sophisticated technology than the wars the US military is waging with their drones. While the military is purchasing drones like the 10 MQ-9 Reaper that cost upwards of $12 million, the ones used by drug-smugglers and the Ohio prison in their demonstration are mid-range consumer products that retail for three or four thousand. 

About the drone that crashed in the Irish prison, one source said, “This isn’t a toy.” But it sort of is compared to the killing machines that the US military has in its arsenal. Once again, the lines between drones as playthings and drones as products with potentially sinister applications are blurry, and it doesn't look like they'll clear up any time soon.