back to article Drones are dropping drugs into prisons and the US govt just doesn't know what to do

The US Federal Bureau of Prisons has appealed for help in stopping contraband-laden drones from flying over prison grounds. The bureaucrats insist they're not after formal proposals nor price quotes. Instead, they want to hear your suggestions for the best ways to stop people from using quadcopters to smuggle items in and out …

  1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Train up top gun drone pilots? Or there's always that bloke with the shotgun...

    1. Aqua Marina

      Kaboom

      Exactly, legislate a 500 yard no-model-aircraft exclusion zone round the perimeter of a prison, and shoot them down if they enter it.

      1. dan1980

        Re: Kaboom

        @Aqua Marina

        Let's put aside the 'shoot them down' part because there is still the question of exactly how you would accomplish that. I'm not saying it's impossible - just that it is something that would need at least some measure of discussion on which method or technology would be best.

        The first part of your comment, however, is SPOT ON. You start by making some laws restricting drone use in sensitive areas.

        That's a roll-a-six-to-start because if it's not illegal then what right to you have to stop the drones flying overhead in the first place?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Kaboom

          Something a little less powerful, but similar.

          http://www.raytheon.com/capabilities/products/phalanx/

          1. RikC

            Re: Kaboom

            That thing eerily look like a Dalek!

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Kaboom

            Interesting thought, but unless manned, it could find it hard to tell the difference between a drone and a bird, and if a rare bird gets accidentally downed by one of these, environmentalists would be up in arms over it.

            1. GitMeMyShootinIrons

              Re: Kaboom

              "If a rare bird gets accidentally downed by one" - let me make that more accurate - "if a rare bird gets accidentally turned into red mist by one"

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Kaboom

          "You start by making some laws restricting drone use in sensitive areas."

          OTOH you don't stop people who are already breaking laws by giving them more laws to break.

          1. Paul Kinsler

            Re: OTOH you don't stop people who are already breaking laws by giving them more laws to break.

            Hypothetically you might, /if/ the new law that they will now (also) break enables you to either (a) disrupt the specific lawbreaking activities more easily, or if it (b) enabled you to catch and/or convict them more easily.

            But you are right that merely passing the law is not what will stop them - its the enforcement that counts. But enabling easier or simpler enforcement can still be beneficial.

          2. Trigonoceps occipitalis

            Re: Kaboom

            You do if you make the new law strict liability. Current laws making flying drone to deliver drugs etc into prison probably need some form of provable intent.

      2. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: Kaboom

        That's probably the most easy answer since there's no money for development costs. The only problem is the "shooting down". Most prisons in the States these days don't have high walls nor the staff to fully patrol the fence line. You definitely don't want someone with a shotgun (goose gun, maybe?) inside the fence line. Since the prisons are designed to keep the prisoners in and generally not to keep things out, it's a problem. More staff.. full-time... three shifts with night googles... one guard every (back of the napkin calculation...) 200 yards or so?

        The problem is detection. These things are so small and fast.

        1. elDog Silver badge

          Re: Kaboom

          And that's NOT the Winner! Easy Answers aren't what THEY want!

          THEY want expensive, militarized and ineffective Answers! How else will they pay for their other toys?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What the hell..

      Prisons are the places where drugs are needed the most... Why would they want to spoil what little fun those people have left in their lives?

      Hand out extacy, make them feel good, they'll rehabilitate that much faster.

      Oh crap, I forgot that nobody is really interested in rehabilitation. Running prisons is way too profitable to want to loose customers who's stay is fully paid by the government.

  2. Nunyabiznes

    alternatively

    Let out all the non-violent drug offenders. Legalize all the drugs - I don't care anymore what you do to yourself.

    For those people that have done something that really requires lockup - let them do all the drugs they want. Just don't intervene when they OD. Lots of problems solved right there.

    I'm only kidding a little...

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: alternatively

      Yeah but.. letting them drop drugs is one thing. What if the drone pilots start flying in guns?

      1. TheVogon Silver badge

        Re: alternatively

        "What if the drone pilots start flying in guns?"

        Well according to the average gun owning American, this should lower the risk of anyone coming to any harm...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: alternatively

          Well since average gun-grabbing leftists only feel the need to disarm law-abiding citizens, they should have no trouble with it either.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: alternatively

            "feel the need to disarm law-abiding citizens"

            Law abiding citizens don't need weapons.

    2. wayward4now

      Re: alternatively

      Legalize ALL drugs. Evolution in action.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: alternatively

        "Legalize ALL drugs. Evolution in action."

        Many drug users don't live in isolation. What are you going to do if there's a resulting rise in widows and orphans? It's like with the divorce dilemma: outlaw divorce and you'll likely see an increase in spousal homicides.

  3. Stratman

    Netting.

    1. Stretch

      yeah i had the same thought straight away. surely this is a solved problem?

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      IIRC, they have netting (or a net gun?) for use against helicopters. Or were at least looking into it after a couple of high-profile attempts at getting a prisoner out that way.

      1. ratfox Silver badge

        Thousands of buildings use nets to keep the pigeons away. I don't even know what the problem is.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          The drones can just fly over any practical vertical netting you can deploy. As for horizontal netting, that has physical weight limitations to the point one good payload with a spike on the bottom should be able to punch through.

          1. Roq D. Kasba

            Netting but also fine cotton or kevlar or whatever steamers hanging all around. Get one of those in a propeller and it'll quickly gum up the works (as anyone who ever had to recover a C120 cassette from the heart of a tape player will attest). Combined with some suitable, angled shade netting, I'll bet you can reduce the problem by 95% in a week.

            Preventing yard access if a drone is spotted, or found in the yard seems an obvious option, sure there's a reason they don't rely on that. Control signals are probably fairly easy to detect, to set off the 'clear the yard' alarm.

            1. Bluto Nash
              FAIL

              C-120

              Everyone knows you're not supposed to use anything over a C-90 if you want decent tape life. Sounds like you got what you deserved...

    3. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

      A large mosquito net laid out in a circus-tent like form would work quite well. Plus now you can prevent the people inside from getting sick via mosquito-borne illnesses. Make it out of metal to resist the drones from just cutting the net open, with the added bonus that you just created a Faraday cage so that only approved and cleared cell phones can be used inside (using a femto-cell like arrangement inside that filters which phones can get out).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Some of these prison yards can get pretty large. How do you prevent the netting from getting too heavy, especially if you try the metal thread approach? I suspect anything you can deploy that covers the entire yard will have to be too light to effectively stop a drone delivery. It'll either cut its way through or deploy a payload with a spike or sharp blades underneath to take advantage of gravity.

        1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

          Chicken wire?

          Seems to fit the bill. With a few supporting poles here and there weight is no problem, and immune to blades etc.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Chicken wire?

            "Seems to fit the bill. With a few supporting poles here and there weight is no problem, and immune to blades etc"

            The supports cannot be in the yard else someone can climb them, use the wire as a weapon etc

            the issue is not as clear cut as it looks

            safety and escape prevention will stop 90% of ideas

  4. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge

    Dungeon ?

    If all the cells (and other prisoner accessible areas) are underground then drones are no longer a problem.

    (Some civil liberty types might object however!!!)

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Re: Dungeon ?

      No, the health and safety people will object. And the unions (if there are any). Prisons are workplaces after all.

    2. Nolveys Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Dungeon ?

      They could just use an old mine, preferably one full of monsters and treasure.

      1. MrDamage

        Re: Dungeon ?

        We could use that for those sentenced to death. No need to worry about a shortage of the drug cocktails when we can just have the condemned eaten by a Grue.

      2. Squander Two

        Re: Dungeon ?

        Hey, if it's good enough for federal pension bureaucrats, why not prison guards?

  5. TVC

    Set up a clay pigeon shooting club next door to each prison and pay them a bounty for each drone.

  6. Brian Miller

    Drone cannon

    Jam them with a directed radio burst. Some of the drones can be hacked in flight, too. How about directional pinpointing to nab the drone operator?

    All of this is just basic radio opsec, something the military has mastered for decades.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Drone cannon

      then people will just start using dead-reckoning or computer-vision to have drones navigate themselves: no radios required.

    2. Dadmin
      Joke

      Re: Drone cannon

      Also there is GPS navigation, so harder to jam that. Seriously, what would they do if you just launched a box of pills and hash cookies from a trebuchet into the prison yard? Or a homing pigeon loaded with contraband pr0n on microfiche? Holy crap, this sounds like a challenge to me!

      The only real xyz-axis solution is that all prisoners shall be tied up with piano wire, then put into small, electric, cyclone-fence cages, while armies of fake drones drop decoy contraband upon the yard like leaves in autumn.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Joke

        Re: Drone cannon

        The only real xyz-axis solution is that all prisoners shall be left to hang by the balls with piano wire from the prison perimeter, while armies of fake drones drop decoy contraband upon the yard like leaves in autumn.

        FTFY.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Drone cannon

        " Seriously, what would they do if you just launched a box of pills and hash cookies from a trebuchet into the prison yard?"

        There was a lo-tech attempt reported in England this week - using a fishing line.

        http://news.sky.com/story/1580343/fishing-line-used-to-smuggle-mcmuffin-into-jail

      3. x 7

        Re: Drone cannon

        "GPS navigation, so harder to jam that2

        dead easy to jam with off-the-shelf kit, it would jam mobile phone signals as well, so an added benefit

  7. elDog Silver badge

    The problem is that prisons are mainly two-dimensional

    We have long relied on the fact that most two-legged animals can only traverse easily in the x and y directions. Once you add the z component (digging tunnels or jumping over fences) the fences become less effective. Of course you can increase the height/depth of the fence but it doesn't eliminate the ability to fly something higher or dig a tunnel deeper.

    Totally enclosed (x*y*z) would work in these three dimensions as it mainly did in the Truman Show. However the barriers can still be breached over time (t).

    For the best protection the inmates would need to encapsulated in a total x*y*z*t shield. Some type of suspended animation might work but would be very expensive for the US prisoner population (the largest in the world.) I can't think a another ultimate solution.

    1. Danny 2 Silver badge

      Re: The problem is that prisons are mainly two-dimensional

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phantom_Zone

      The Phantom Zone was discovered by Jor-El and used on the planet Krypton as a method of imprisoning criminals. Previously, criminals were punished by being sealed into capsules and rocketed into orbit in suspended animation with crystal meths attached to their foreheads to slowly erase their criminal tendencies

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The problem is that prisons are mainly two-dimensional

      "Of course you can increase the height/depth of the fence but it doesn't eliminate the ability to fly something higher or dig a tunnel deeper."

      Well, down has a practical limit. If the wall goes down to bedrock, the only way under it will be rock-drilling equipment: harder to come by and subject to physical limitations: you can be fast or quiet, but not both.

      As for up, that poses a problem, too, especially if the drone users get wise and start applying lexan shields around their drone, making them extremely difficult to take down. The lexan will require ammo of a gauge large enough to penetrate that if they miss they risk "bullets fired up" collateral damage, the underside is protected by the payload, and the top is not exposed when it flies above everyone. Radio-based attacks will require an FCC exemption since they count as jammers, and I see someone's already thought about the old-fashioned trebuchet (the only catch is it's not as stealthy as the drone, which can be launched covertly from some distance away and can even be cheap enough to send on a one-way trip, making it tougher to trace the source).

      1. Karl Vegar

        Re: The problem is that prisons are mainly two-dimensional

        Lexan shield hanging under the drone?

        Yeah, should be pretty sure the drone won't get shot down... since it will never take off.

        The propellers create lift by pushing air down. The mentioned air going down will be pushing down on the shield and create a negative lift that will be aprox of equal the positive lift generated, and kind of negate any upwards mobility.

  8. Your alien overlord - fear me

    Wait until a prisoner orders something from Amazon and a large 'copter comes in and a small prisoner jumps on. Beats building tunnels or hang gliders (Colditz reference there for non-WW2 historians).

    1. Will 30

      It wasn't a hang glider.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    1. Shield the drone electronics

    2. Use laser wireless, and have a comprehensive algorithmic fall-back, should the control signal be blocked.

    3. Fly up very high and release the contraband as a free-fall bomb.

    4. Minimize mechanical noise of motors, and aerodynamic noise of propellers.

    5. Camouflage coatings

    6. Decoy drones and payloads

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      If the drone can get reasonably within the yard on dead reckoning, then let's see.

      1. Shield the sides of the drones physically with lexan and the internals with a Faraday shield. The lexan discourages firing at it since penetrating it would usually require large enough ammo to present a "bullets fired up" danger while the Faraday shield should prevent any kind of jamming or EMP attack. Basically, once it's up, good luck getting it down early without some risk of collateral damage.

      2. Should be pre-programmed so no control signal at all. If the parameters are set ahead of time and it has a compass and accelerometers, it should be able to steer itself into the prison yard (which tends to be pretty large compared to the drone) with little trouble with just its own reckoning. Plus if it goes one-way, it can't be followed back to its controller.

      3. Flying high will beat a vertical net while a spike under the payload should defeat a horizontal net.

      4. Agreed, though drone motors don't tend to be all that noisy to begin with. The shields should help deflect any remaining sounds.

      5. Not camo: either sky blue for daytime ops or black for night-time. Also, heat-deflecting coats in case the prison uses an IR sensor. Another option is to try to align with the sun so that people can't look up to aim at it.

      6. Not going to be effective against a prison that would regard ALL such things as suspect and simply design to country ANY and ALL. What you need isn't numbers but stealth.

  10. Herby Silver badge

    Bounty idea sounds good to me.

    If it is enough, there will be takers. I like the idea of a trap/skeet range next door. It isn't like the next door to a prison is "prime real estate" anyway.

    Most of these things use some unlicensed control anyway. Setup detectors and sound alarms if they become active. Target practice might help as well.

    1. David Roberts Silver badge

      Re: Bounty idea sounds good to me.

      Of course every prison would require enough skeet shooters to person the entire perimiter 24/7 with the ability to see in adverse weather conditions and the dark.

      Then, of course, they all have to be security cleared because the easiest way to circumvent a perimiter of sentries is to encourage one or more to look the other way. They also have to be paid enough that they can't be bribed. They need to be brave enough that they won't succumb to threats to themselves or family and close friemds.

      I came to suggest netting, but someone beat me to it and garnered an up vote. Simple low tech solution to put a roof on the area. Works even in the dark and the rain. Doesn't require a mass of armed guards or a tech based arms race.

      1. elDog Silver badge

        Re: Bounty idea sounds good to me.

        Most prisons are (or were) built in low-density, low-income areas. Imagine the northwoods of New York where the biggest birds of prey are the mosquitoes and the employment opportunities are close to miniscule.

        Skeet shooting is a luxury because those clay pigeons cost money. Some backwoodsman with a knack for packing shot and black powder into a shotgun shell would be really happy to get $5 per bird.

    2. NeonTeepee
      FAIL

      what could possibly go wrong with that

      Riiiiiiight, so you are suggesting a building full of guns and people with lots of guns next door to a prison full of people who like to use guns illegally. What could possibly go wrong with that.

  11. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    A moat. A moat filled with sharks. A moat filled with sharks armed with lasers.

    Seriously, they have guard towers and guards with shotguns or automatic rifles already - adding surface-to-air missiles seem a little overkill-ish. Maybe they should invest a little time and money in target practice. Or nets.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I agree

      And fortunately, the guards are already facing inwards. What they should do is simply shoot, preferably in the stomach or lower back, any prisoner who touches a drone or its payload. And if they've got the correct chemicals on the bullet, lessons will be learned.

      I also think that no drug should be illegal for personal use. Hell, if you want to OD, go right ahead.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Keep It Simple, Stupid (KISS)

    Yeah we could get techy and very expensive with special high gain antennas tuned to the RF noise generated by the various drone systems and motors. That would cost a lot in RD and deployment.

    Or, we could just plant a bunch of poles in the ground and put up nets with mesh too small for contraband to fit through.

  13. Gray
    Pirate

    Goose gun

    Back in the 19th century, American market hunters employed large gauge (8 gauge or 10 gauge) shotguns with full choke and long barrels to knock high-flying geese out of the sky from their migratory formations. These heavy shotguns threw larger lead shot in a tight pattern at considerably longer range than the normal 12 gauge shotguns used for ducks and other smaller fowl.

    Of course, this might lead to goose-gun armed tower guards following their target downward toward the prisoners shoving and pushing and milling about to be first to grab the goods, which could lead to unintended (?) wounding. Then again, such a threat might discourage the prison population from taking delivery. And it's not like America has a shortage of prisoners. They're expendable.

    Marlin Arms Co. made and sold goose guns of a bolt-action variety until the mid-1960s. Perhaps they could be persuaded to make a production run for the Federal anti-drone troops.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Use a net, you idiots.

    Net. Big one, strung across all areas open to the sky, mesh fine enough to catch anything dropped.

    Seriously, are the people that run prisons so completely retarded, that they haven't thought of this, and need us to suggest it?

    Bet that instead, some MI contractor will get a radar detection and laser-guided tracking missile launcher contract to milk a few billion dollars, and still completely bollocks up.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Use a net, you idiots.

      Next payload comes with a sharp point on its bottom designed to punch through the net. Next.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Use a net, you idiots.

        Probably won't work - think about it - sharp point, resistant net, point falls through hole, package remains above

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Use a net, you idiots.

          Not if the spike or blade is wider than the payload so that if the spike goes through so does the payload. Make the blade sharp enough, drop it from high enough, and gravity should be able to do the rest.

          1. Stoneshop Silver badge
            Pirate

            Re: Use a net, you idiots.

            If that spike can penetrate a net, it will most likely penetrate the skull of whoever is underneath. Which in the case of an average prisoner, will cause no great loss.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Use a net, you idiots.

              Anyone standing under a prison payload of any size would be a Darwin Award Candidate, spike or no spike, simply by accounting for the idea that 5 pounds or so to the noggin (especially from a high enough altitude) can simply kill with sheer blunt force trauma.

              The prisoners waiting for the drop would wisely keep clear until it lands, THEN rush for it. Plus any net-cutting implement would instantly become a panic-inducing prison weapon.

          2. MacroRodent Silver badge

            Re: Use a net, you idiots.

            Not if the spike or blade is wider than the payload so that if the spike goes through so does the payload. Make the blade sharp enough, drop it from high enough, and gravity should be able to do the rest.

            If the net is made of sturdy metal wire, just dropping blades on it wont cut it, unless they are really heavy, at which point you are talking about drones the size of a small helicopter to carry both the blade and the pay-load.

            But such drones would be easy to spot by the guards far in advance. The smuggler loses the stealth advantage.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Use a net, you idiots.

      Seriously, are the people that run prisons so completely retarded, that they haven't thought of this, and need us to suggest it?

      Pretty Much - but - what they have thought about is how much money the guards make on the little side business and now drones are taking a cut out of that.

  15. Jos V

    No need to develop...

    There are already solutions that exist, so why don't they just search around on the internet?

    My submission for the RFI: Use google and maybe youtube, and you might find something.

    Like this? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8aZ0zWX3SA

    AUDS system....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No need to develop...

      But each of these supposed solutions already have counters. Jamming and EMPs can be defeated by Faraday shielding the drone and using a preprogrammed route so it flies programmatically without outside input.

      Drones can fly over a vertical net and can drop payloads with spikes or blades on the bottom to punch or cut through horizontal nets.

      Oh, and as for military solution, note that a lot of prisons happen to be located near civilian populations (either due to the prison being old and built with different design philosophies or because the town grew up around it), so you have to be wary of collateral damage due to bullets being shot upward, compounded with the idea of the drone carrying shielding around its sides.

      1. MacroRodent Silver badge

        Re: No need to develop...

        Jamming and EMPs can be defeated by Faraday shielding the drone and using a preprogrammed route so it flies programmatically without outside input.

        It will need a GPS antenna to follow a pre-programmed route, unless the drone flies by dead reckoning, which is inaccurate over any significant distance. A gust of wind would cause the drop to happen outside the prison.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: No need to develop...

          It will need a GPS antenna to follow a pre-programmed route, unless the drone flies by dead reckoning, which is inaccurate over any significant distance. A gust of wind would cause the drop to happen outside the prison.

          It can be fed its initial location and course through an umbilical prior to takeoff, and if it has a tri-axial accelerometer it should be able to correct enough for wind forces to stay on course until it hits the relatively-large target of the prison yard.

  16. mourner

    Or perhaps not criminalise everyone?

    ^ As subject, but that would be an insane suggestion in a land with the highest %ge of useful adults banged up and written off.

    ~Sigh~ not going to be.

    Carry on... I guess..... go you. Setting a fine example to lead the world..... oh wait that didn't work, no matter we'll just drop munitions on everyone.... what that doesn't work either?

    /me deals the Yanks a diplomacy card.... you may need this. You'll grow into it..... eventually.

    1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

      Re: Or perhaps not criminalise everyone?

      Unfortunately criminalizing is what happens when you have a bunch of lawyer politicians with nothing to do but appear to be "tough on crime". The easy way to appear tough is to make more crimes and stuff the prisons beyond capacity, much to the delight of private prisons and their lobbyists.

      As far as stopping drone drops an easy answer is to put a roof on it. It doesn't have to be flat, it doesn't have to be continuous or solid. It merely needs to be an obstacle for linear or ballistic paths so a series of slanted panels with a gutter at the bottom that collects things that may drop on the panels. Drones will have a difficult time navigating something like a saw tooth pattern and it would also make a nice place to mount detection or interfering technology. For the panels that face toward the sun, solar collectors could supply extra power. Anyone worried about birds has no complaint and it would still provide indirect light and air circulation as well as making the yard useful even when it rains. Also note that rain water can be captured for use inside the prison.

    2. elDog Silver badge

      Or, perhaps criminalise everyone?

      Nice little microchips implanted in several vital spots upon birth? If removed instant death.

      I have a couple of dogs that are convinced that wearing a few different "stimulation" collars is a GOOD THING. They know that 73% of the time we'll go for a walk in the woods.

      The other 40-90% of the time (depending) they may get a little reminder (usually a buzz but sometimes electro-shock) that I don't appreciate their behaviour (barking at the mailman, licking their nethers, etc.)

      This tiny bit of correction seems to have taken a lot of the wildness out of their lives.

      Now, my wife has done the same so I better shoot this off befor....

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Alternative threat

    anyone touching a drone delivered payload is sent to that soon to be empty prison in Cuba for the rest of their natural. no trial because this could be regarded as an escape attempt.

    Problem solved? Maybe.

    The US does not recognise the UN Human Rights charters so those won't be a problem.

    Anyone caught flying these drones get 10-20 on a chain gang.

    OR

    has been said, build the next gen prisons underground with an excericse area under glass/perspex.

    There are lot of soon to be reundant coal mines ideal for this...

  18. Adam JC

    Easy! Just ask the guys over at Marriot

    They seem to be stellar at blocking anyone elses WiFi signals!

    1. Velv Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Easy! Just ask the guys over at Marriot

      Or just move the prisoners into the Marriott. Do them good to suffer from some hardship for a change!

      (Yes, yes, Merkin prisons are not the hotels UK prisons are, it's a joke)

  19. J J Carter Silver badge

    Don't shoot the small, fast moving drones.

    Shoot the cons moving about the exercise yard, collecting the baccy.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      May be tough to do if you have a couple prison riots break out just before then.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Joke

    What about non-crims?

    Comes to something when crimmos get delivery by drone before us.

    1. elDog Silver badge

      Re: What about non-crims?

      I'm guessing you're not talking about the prison staff, administrators, local and state legislators. These supporters of the US Prison-Industrial-Political-Military Complex (USPIPMC) are regularly recipients of drop shipments from various sources. Usually in untraceable funds.

  21. chivo243 Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Move the prisions

    You know, Alcatraz, Devils Island type of thing... find a remote island and drop the lot of violent offenders there. Who needs guards when you have a thousand or so miles of water. Check back in 25 years to see how many are still alive.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Move the prisions

      They tried already with Alcatraz. Several problems. First, a determined criminal will still try to escape regard of what you throw at them; they'll just defeat them one by one until they can get out. Remember, several prisoners did manage to break off the island; we just don't know if any made it to the mainland alive, but the risk will always be there. Also, the big killer for Alcatraz was the upkeep costs, mainly due to the very fact it's an island, meaning everything has to come by boat: not cheap.

      1. chivo243 Silver badge

        Re: Move the prisions

        I didn't say anything about building and maintaining prisons. Or sending supplies....

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Move the prisions

      Worked out great for Australia that plan didnt it :P

    3. macjules Silver badge

      Re: Move the prisions

      I have long been advocating that we should set up an 'Oubliette' jail on East Falklands (population: 1). Every returning disillusioned Jihadi/failed martyr could conveniently be dumped there and spend their days in unlamented isolation. A bit like Devils Island, but with sheep.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Move the prisions

        Replace the sheep with pigs and you have a surefire winner.

      2. x 7

        Re: Move the prisions

        "East Falklands (population: 1)"

        I think the population of Stanley, Goose Green and a number of other homesteads would disagree with your estimate of their population.....

        as to other South Atlantic possessions, even South Georgia usually has two or three resident scientists.

        If you want to find somewhere where no-ones going to complain you'd have to build it on one of the other Sandwich Islands

        1. elDog Silver badge

          Re: Move the prisions

          No, there are plenty of totally uninhabited spots in the Atlantic (and Pacific/etc.)

          Most of the (US sponsored) dictatorships from South America started building reefs to hold their undesirables. Unfortunately the reefs were still 2-3km underwater when the choppers left the bones of the disappeared.

  22. x 7

    the prison authorities should fly their own drones in, carrying drugs laced with cyanide

    after a few prisoner deaths, the inmates would soon get the idea that drones aren't a good idea

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      And then the warden gets hit with a murder charge since the vast bulk of prisoners are still entitled the inaliable right to life. The families of the victims will likely see to it, especially since they already sue for uneven treatment in prisons.

      1. x 7

        "the warden gets hit with a murder charge"

        FFS you don't tell them who flew the drugs in..............if felons can fly them in without being identified, I'm sure a couple of government agents could do the same, securely and anonymously.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          But perfectly mimicking a felon's drone? I don't think so. They'll start being wary for warning signs or listen in for schedules so they know which ones are legit and which ones aren't.

    2. elDog Silver badge

      Interesting idea. However I think a lot of the wardens and officers are on the take

      Might take out the whole damn hierarchy!

  23. GitMeMyShootinIrons
    Joke

    Extreme solution

    Instant termination on being found guilty of a crime. Any crime.

    No prisoners = no prisons = no drone problem.

    Problem solved!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Extreme solution

      Oh, great. Absolute Justice. No joke, this is talked about in various fictions. Usually in a bad light.

    2. Steven Roper

      Re: Extreme solution

      GitMeMyShootinIrons, meet Captain Jean-Luc Picard:

      "I don't know how to communicate this, or even if it is possible. But the question of justice has concerned me greatly of late, and I say to any creature who may be listening, there can be no justice so long as laws are absolute. Even life itself is an exercise in exceptions."

  24. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

    Bolas

    A post with words

  25. John Savard Silver badge

    Canadian Technology

    After some prisoners escaped from a Canadian prison in a helicopter, they started putting chicken wire overtop of the exercise yard. This might work for drug-laden drones as well.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    1 Add the GPS location of the prison to the drone manufacturer's no-fly area database.

    2 Drape netting over the prisoner accessible courtyards.

    3 Train dogs to recognise the unwanted substances and use them to guard the entrance/exit to open areas.

    4 Scramble the radio frequency bands used to control the drones (using a transmitter only powerful enough to affect the prison but not surrounding areas).

    5 Block the GPS signal.

    6 Make fake drone deliveries of substances that are non-lethal but would force the illegitimate consumer to seek medical assistance. Repeat until they give up.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > 1 Add the GPS location of the prison to the drone manufacturer's no-fly area database.

      Not all drones have GPS. How do you plan to retrofit those that do with the data? How do you plan to stop criminals disabling the GPS and flying by sight only? When a new prison is built, how do you plan to get its location data into previously sold drones?

      > 2 Drape netting over the prisoner accessible courtyards.

      Which will last precisely until the next bout of stormy weather. And if a bit comes down, the inmates can simply twist it together into a rope - no need to tie bedsheets together any more to escape.

      > 3 Train dogs to recognise the unwanted substances and use them to guard the entrance/exit to open areas.

      Drones are only used to smuggle stuff in while the prisoners are out exercising. Are you proposing that the dogs are left to roam around with the prisoners? And if stuff is dropped just ahead of exercise time, I'm sure the guards are perfectly capable of using their eyes to look for any objects lying on the ground that weren't there before.

      > 4 Scramble the radio frequency bands used to control the drones (using a transmitter only powerful enough to affect the prison but not surrounding areas).

      And if there is a riot and the prisoners take over the prison: they will be able to prevent the authorities using drones to gather intelligence regarding the situation?

      > 5 Block the GPS signal.

      See 4.

      > 6 Make fake drone deliveries of substances that are non-lethal but would force the illegitimate consumer to seek medical assistance. Repeat until they give up.

      Can you taste the difference between caf and de-caf? Do you really think that regular drug takers couldn't tell the difference between real and fake drugs with just a small taste? And if somehow we do decide to waste public funds paying scientists to come up with an extreme laxative that looks and tastes just like cocaine, they'll simply force some down the throat of another inmate and wait 24 hours to see what happens.

  27. macjules Silver badge

    Err ..

    Drones are dropping drugs into prisons and the US govt just doesn't know what to do

    Perhaps ask Amazon to stop delivering drugs to prisons?

  28. Me19713
    Mushroom

    EMP

    Electromagnetic Pulse. Pickup a drone on the radar, pop a nuke over the exercise yard. No problem.

  29. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    Force drones to be licenced

    If drones were licenced in the same way as cars then you could at least identify the owner of a drone.

    At some point I would expect there to be so many drones and unmanned road-borne vehicles around that there will have to be some legislation to attempt to control their usage.

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Force drones to be licenced

      And the car used in a bank robbery/ram raid/house burglary/etc is always registered correctly to one of the crims involved?

      As such, registration of drones may be a matter that's going to be required sooner or later, but that's not going to solve this problem.

  30. Martin Maloney
    Black Helicopters

    Drones are dropping drugs into prisons...

    ..,and corrupt guards resent the competition!

    (Helicopter icon in lieu of drone icon.)

  31. Martin Maloney
    Coat

    A convict's lady friend...

    ...directs the drones.

    Yep-- she's the heroin heroine!

    (There's a "nasty crack" pun in there somewhere.)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nasty crack?

      Probably where she hid the heroin...

  32. Michael Thibault

    Butterfly nets. Big ones. On long poles. You know... for the kids. In the neighbourhood. Give them a bounty for each drone that they catch.

    Or license hunter-killer drones in, around, and above prisons, with suitable background checks, traceability, etc. and then create a reality TV show, with real-world prizes! prizes! prizes!

    Or, an auto-launched drone that, in responding to indications of an incoming drone, drags a small section of fine netting (of kevlar and/or fine wire) toward, and then over, the target drone.

    At the very least, a program of very frequent but seemingly-random drone drops into the prison yards, involving packages of various sizes/masses holding various amounts of chalk dust, charcoal, dried-up paint chunks, gerbil poo, peanut shells, etc..

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Butterfly nets. Big ones. On long poles. You know... for the kids. In the neighbourhood. Give them a bounty for each drone that they catch."

      They can fly over any net too long to be ungainly to wield.

      "Or license hunter-killer drones in, around, and above prisons, with suitable background checks, traceability, etc. and then create a reality TV show, with real-world prizes! prizes! prizes!"

      Stealth drones that can't be detected until it's too late.

      "Or, an auto-launched drone that, in responding to indications of an incoming drone, drags a small section of fine netting (of kevlar and/or fine wire) toward, and then over, the target drone."

      Shielded rotors means it can fly even netted. Plus what if has blades on the side and reacts to netting by spinning along the vertical? Probably cut the net and maybe even damage the opposing drone. And yes, a sharp enough blade can cut through both kevlar and metal wire.

      "At the very least, a program of very frequent but seemingly-random drone drops into the prison yards, involving packages of various sizes/masses holding various amounts of chalk dust, charcoal, dried-up paint chunks, gerbil poo, peanut shells, etc.."

      First, they can use "slave" prisoners to test for fake payloads. Second, underground prisoner networks can relay the times or key aspects of real drops to help distinguish them from the fakes.

      1. Michael Thibault

        >And yes, a sharp enough blade can cut through both kevlar and metal wire.

        Quickly and reliably cut through kevlar? The only thing that will do that is a light sabre. Which you'll find as readily as the Dr. Seuss butterfly nets. However, if such a blade does exist, it--alone--would be considered very valuable inside a prison. So I hear.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "Quickly and reliably cut through kevlar?"

          Yes, because at its core, kevlar is still a thread. It's only strong when woven into a tight mesh, and even then it's only really good against blunt trauma like a normal pistol bullet of some decent size. But if the point of impact is too small (something small like a .22 or something pointed like a rifle round), the round can "thread the needle" and slip past the fibers. Kevlar is known to not be very effective against a knife thrust because the knife can act doubly against the kevlar; the point can slip past the mesh while the edge cuts the threads as it slides along. Think about it. How else can they make the kevlar fabric into a vest if they can't cut it at some point?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yeah a drone to catch a drone. I assume a drone emits an rf signal over a predicable band.

      The prison drone heads towards the bad guy using df signal strength only if it is at x altitude or above (stops it smacking into someones house). Geofence it. Perch it on a watchtower and tell the guards to turn off their wifi hotspots. Set some sort of approach bias +1 meter and try and trail some dangling crap into the rotors over a set pattern. That C90 tape (suggested earlier) with a small weight on the end should to the trick.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    drop in fake contraband

    That is a laxative/poison/stinky and/or explodes spraying security ink everywhere.

    Then they might learn to avoid stuff.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: drop in fake contraband

      Underground network relays hints on how to tell the real payloads from the fakes.

  34. Bladeforce

    Hell...

    Build an electric fence over the top

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hell...

      Drone just flies over it. And you can't do it horizontally due to the weight.

  35. Cameron Colley

    @Various naysayers.

    I notice a lot of replies here saying things like "But nets over such and such a yard would be too big." (which I agree with) or "But criminals will ignore a law stating that it is illegal to fly drones over prisons." (which, again, I agree with).

    What those people are forgetting is that security is a process and not a single thing you do. The nets over anywhere practical will prevent some intrusions, the law against flying drones over prisons will allow those with the ability to do so to do things like shoot them down or fire HERF weapons at them, and so on.

    Heck, the way some AC posts read here it seems that there are no prisoners in the US since I'd wager every single security measure within the prison system has, at one point, been compromised in theory if not in practice.

    I would type more but I've got to put my SSH port back from a non-standard as that's pointless because a real hacker would port-scan. Then I'll uninstall fail2ban because, after all, a real hacker's not going to use the same IP address twice. Then I'll disable public key authentication because, after all, the NSA can break that. Then I'll be nice and safe with my standard-port password-only SSH server...

    Edit: I happen to be in the "Just decriminalise drugs already and let prison inmates have all they want" camp.

  36. John Savard Silver badge

    Should Have Read the Thread

    Indeed, I see lots of people suggested netting. This is much less problematic than poison payloads or jamming measures or even shooting the drones down.

    I mean, of course the prisons could be put in underwater domes, or in remote areas of Alaska, so that no unauthorized people were allowed within 100 miles of the prison (but then they could operate the drone using Iridium phones, I suppose).

    One simple thing, I suppose, is to have more exercise yards in prisons, so that each exercise yard would have only a few prisoners in it at one time. This would make it easier to stop them from picking up contraband, because then there would be no worry about shooting the wrong prisoner who is in the way. (And randomize who uses each exercise yard, so that it's harder to get the stuff to the prisoner who was paying for it.)

  37. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Linux

    I keep saying thaf the answer to pesky drones is..

    Falconry!!!

    No stray rounds going into neighbors' houses, no guns for prison inmates to use against guards, etc

    (I'm sure Tux knows a few guys who would do the job@)

  38. Cheshire Cat

    Use tanglers

    String wires over the courtyard at a distance of about 3m apart.

    Tie to the wires a large number of 1m long plastic strips that will blow in the wind.

    Then, any drone coming past will tangle its rotors in the strips and get hung up.

    Of course, if the drone then drops its package, this might be an issue, though you should have the wires at least 5m up in the air so anything dropped is likely to break.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Use tanglers

      We're talking drugs here. They could probably survive a 20m fall safely, especially if the payload is padded. They'll just drop it through the tangle lines (and the payload can have blades on the bottom to slice though any lines they encounter).

  39. Bitbeisser
    Devil

    My suggestion: 12 gauge with #5 bird shot should work just fine (and use steel pellets instead lead so the EPA won't complain)...

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    JDAM

    GPS- guided weapons have HOJ (home on jammer) for dealing with GPS jammers on the ground. Perhaps they could be configured to erase the gobshites in command of the UAVs.

    Also these UAVs are probably relying upon video transmission for a precision delivery, and this would be readily jammable from the ground. (Unless the pilot uses a directional antenna, which he probably doesn't)

    Also, as has been said already: nets, dungeons, island, phalanx.

    The airport authorities must be shitting bricks and thinking hard about the whole question, so maybe talk to them and see what they're doing about it.

  41. mfritz0
    Alert

    Use RF direction finding gear and triangulate the control signal. Then kindly allow the perpetrators to join the prisoners. What they are doing is highly illegal, be sure to have the FCC fine them before putting them in prison also.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That's assuming the drone is not Faraday shielded, acting on an internal program using gyroscopes, accelerometers, and its own reckoning, and flying a one-way mission.

  42. Crisp Silver badge

    Equip each guard with a butterfly net.

    This solution wont work. But it will be fun to see prison guards running around with butterfly nets trying to catch drones.

  43. Brucifer

    A perimeter ring of loads of magnetrons (out of loads microwaves) pointing directly up in the air like an invisible RF fence.

  44. Naselus

    USA government upset about drones dropping things in their country

    Irony, anyone?

  45. mark 120

    How about...

    ...having guards watch the yards and pick up anything that is dropped? It can't be that hard to detect a drone and send somebody over to the rough location it went to, then remove anything on the ground, can it? Far easier than a purely blocking tactic.

    1. elDog Silver badge

      Re: How about...

      Would you like to be a guard bending over in a prison yard?

  46. fajensen Silver badge

    Have the prison pharmacy stock drugs.

    1. elDog Silver badge

      Although if they are as expensive as a 1 minute phone call from prison, even you couldn't afford it.

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dear simpletons...

    "A horizontal net [chicken wire] will be too heavy"?

    Err, who said, or even thought, it needed to be supported only from the periphery?

    Oh noes, how will we get a road over the Humber? A road is too heavy...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dear simpletons...

      Because anything that's in the middle will likely get attacked by the prisoners and either demolished or worse turned into a weapon. Cardinal rule of prisons: minimize the potential for prison weapons, especially in the event of a riot.

  48. GarethWright.com

    Jam 2.4GHz RF and GPS

    Just block the controller and GPS signals, that'll sort out the majority of Drones from being flown in. Simples

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Put up a net

    The cheapest route would be to drape nets over the entire prison. Passive and low tech.

    Who cares if cons view of the blue sky is obscured.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Put up a net

      And the next thing you know, the drones will just cut the nets. Either that or the prisoners start hoisting themselves up to rip them down and use them for escape attempts.

  50. Tikimon Silver badge
    Devil

    Attack from the air - cannot be entirely stopped

    I can think of several ways to stop multi-rotor UAV deliveries. I can also think of a few other ways to drop things into guarded environments that would be even harder to stop. I second the trebuchet idea (and other ballistic projectile launchers) although precise aiming would be a challenge.

    R/C Gliders. They would be very stealthy, making no noise when the engine was off. They're cheap, you can crash them one-way for good cost, or drop payloads from a decent height if you want to recover the plane.

    TV-guided rockets. I know of a group of rocket hobbyists who were shut down years ago by the US government for making such rockets, this would be easy nowadays. Fly over, deploy parachute, bulls-eye the drop zone. If your payload is reasonably robust or padded, omit the descent parachute and nose-plant it. Hard to imagine stopping that.

    Trained monkeys and such I will leave for others to speculate on.

  51. swschrad

    take 'em out

    if you can't use shotguns, then have dancing lasers. CO2 lasers. drop the little buggers outside the fence and have the locals dust them for prints.

  52. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    Forget drones, think about moles

    http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/forget-drones-think-moles-the-subterranean-delivery-network-10176884.html

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Forget drones, think about moles

      It'd be hard for anything subterranean to get into a prison if the exterior walls are built down to bedrock...

  53. nilfs2
    Facepalm

    No need for drones to smuggle drugs inside prison

    A local prison made reports recently about people with slingshots smuggling things inside the prison as well as using messenger pigeons.

    If there's one thing the prisoners have advantage over the custodians it is free time to come up with new ideas, keep the prisoners busy building and maintaining infrastructure, that way they will have less time to come up with clever ideas.

    1. Nehmo

      Re: No need for drones to smuggle drugs inside prison

      The "free time" of prisoners is largely a myth. In all prisons in the US, inmates in the population (not isolation) are forced to have "jobs." These mostly are make-work jobs like raking gravel 8 hours a day. I'm not kidding. Other jobs may be buffing the floor, cleaning this or that again and again, etc. Only a few jobs are real ones. The *idea* is to take up the time of the prisoner.

      IOW, prisoners usually don't have a lot of free time.

  54. Nehmo

    Obvious Solution

    (I'm in the US) I'm only going to deal with the drug drones. Someone else will need to deal with the weapon carrying ones.

    Legalize drugs. In that way, most of the people wouldn't be in prison in the first place. The ones already hopelessly inside would be better off buying the quality legal pharmaceuticals.

    OK, I realize the political climate isn't going to let this happen. But there are partial remedies. In California USA and in other jurisdictions, methadone is given to prisoners. This pretty much kills the illicit narcotic market. The drones carrying that would stop.

    Next, legalize pot. Let the prisoners have it. Who cares? It actually calms violent people, so prison authorities might like it.

    I'm not sure what to do about cocaine, but again, most people in prison for that are there for simple possession. Personally, although I don't do coke, I see it as a crime to lock up somebody for it.

  55. Nehmo

    Deplorable!

    This downright shameful. These drones are depriving impoverished guards from getting their usual bribes (or cut of the drug dealing profits as the case may be). It's hard enough to make it on a guard's meager salary. I say we get rid of those sneaky drones and go back to the old system!

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