The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has warned that if appropriate action is not taken, drones could one day enable prisoners to escape by releasing convicts.
A recent report on the DOJ's efforts to protect prison facilities from unmanned aircraft systems raised concerns about such a threat.
While something as tiny as a DJI Mavic Air 2 is clearly never going to become an escape tool for a yardbird looking for early clearance, a larger machine with multiple rotors could potentially be used to carry a criminal to freedom. After all, we've already seen such a device lift a person high into the sky while celebrity YouTuber Casey Neistat performed a similar feat using a custom eight-rotor drone.
In its report examining the threat posed by large and small drones, the DoJ said that improved tracking of incidents related to drones at Federal Bureau of Prisons (BoP) facilities was needed to better assess the threat posed by drones to be able to use remote-controlled flying machines.
The BoP faces "significant and growing challenges in protecting its facilities from drone threats," pointing out that the devices were used "to deliver contraband to inmates" and could also be used to monitor facilities for attempted escape facilitate or carry out dangerous transports of weapons such as firearms or explosives. "
The BoP only began formally tracking drone incidents at its facilities in 2018, when 23 incidents were reported. Last year that number rose to 57. However, raids are known to have occurred before 2018, while the DoJ recognizes that the actual number of incidents involving drones in prisons is likely to be much higher than official statistics suggest to let.
The DoJ said in its report that in its efforts to evaluate solutions appropriate to protect BoP facilities from drone threats, it faces a number of challenges, including “identifying suitable technologies, verifying compliance with promised capabilities, and evaluating them the cost and benefits of these purchases. "Given the limited resources at the BoP and the rapid advances in drone technology," continued collaboration, both within the DoJ and between other federal agencies, is critical to addressing these challenges and advancing the BoP Protect drone threats ".
While there are indeed a growing number of technologies designed to protect prisons and other restricted areas from rogue flights, a solution to preventing illegal airlifts operated by remote-controlled, human-carried drones could potentially be much less technical – possibly in Form of a net over the prison yard.