Feds seek way to stop drive-by drone prison contraband deliveries

Law enforcement is fed up of drones getting in on the prison contraband game and wants you to provide a solution.

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US law enforcement has sent out a call for ways to stop prison delivery drones in their tracks.

Across the United States, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), ranging from cheap and cheerful quadcopters to more sophisticated setups, have been viewed hovering over prison grounds to drop illegal contraband off to inmates.

In August, an Ohio prison became a free for all when a drone obligingly dropped marijuana, heroin and nicotine off in the prison yard. This resulted in an inmate brawl, pepper spray and solitary confinement for nine of the prisoners.

Prison guards have enough to do as it is and the idea of contraband -- which could go beyond drugs to include weapons or cell phones -- avoiding security at the gates to be casually dropped off by air is a prison chief's nightmare.

Prisons need to counterattack to stop contraband-by-air deliveries from continuing. To do so, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) division of the Justice Department has called out for ideas regarding "protection from unmanned air vehicles."

BOP is responsible for roughly 205,000 offenders, 81 percent of which are locked away -- and could be potential recipients of drone deliveries.

The request for information notice says:

"Recent advances in unmanned air vehicles have presented a new and evolving threat to the BOP's mission. From small devices of less than a pound that can provide unauthorized imagery and surveillance to larger systems that can carry 20 or more pounds of contraband, these devices represent a new and unprecedented challenge for BOP personnel.

The goal of this Request for Information (RFI) is to collect information to identify and assess the landscape of technologies and systems that can assist in the BOP's mission by countering, mitigating and/or interdicting the impact and possible nefarious intent of unmanned aerial systems (UAS)."

BOP is interested in systems which would allow prison staff to detect, track, engage and kill drones less than 55lb in weight. However, the solution also should be able to make a distinction between friendly and non-friendly drones -- somehow -- and detect UAVs up to one mile away.

The federal unit has also asked that the system can be both manually controlled or able to left to automatically deal with contraband drones.

Submissions are being accepted until December 1. The federal unit won't fund any new research and yet won't be forking out for any costs if you decide to submit an idea, but the agency still wants to hear what you have to say before investment is considered.

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