More flubs and pratfalls when drones deliver contraband to global prisons

drone delivery contraband prison

It’s been nearly two weeks since the popular topic was refreshed on the pages of DroneDJ, so herewith a brief update on that gift that keeps giving: people pursuing the truly lousy idea of using drones to deliver contraband to prisons. Cue the Benny Hill theme, but keep the one from The Sopranos ready just in case.

When last the topic was visited, an ex-convict in New Jersey found the allure of flying a drone to delivery contraband back to the very prison he’d only recently been released from so strong he couldn’t resist – swiftly earning a 43-month jolt back in stir for his efforts. Since then the whir of illicit flights to jailhouses has continued unabated, offering a trio of new tales of droning for fun and custodial failure from around the world.

Perhaps the jolliest of the three came from the Canadian province of Quebec, whose penitentiaries renewed their claim to having the globe’s densest air traffic. On Wednesday, a drone attempting to make a delivery of contraband to the rather confusingly named Bordeaux prison in Montréal encountered unknown problems and wound up immobilized on the roof of the facility. In an apparently telling sign of just how tired correctional officials are of dealing with such frequent jailhouse fliers, authorities left the downed craft where it was – and where, according to reports, it remains still. 

Prison officials say they are ignoring neither the stranded craft nor the flow of others like it that regularly drop parcels into big houses across Canada. Instead, they contend, the spot the copter came down on is so high they need to organize a special crane to be brought in to recover it. Leaders of Canada’s prison guard unions call the continued rooftop display of the vehicle an insult to the authorities’ inability to battle the trafficking scourge.

“I find it aberrant when we have so many problems with drones,” says union president Mathieu Lavoie. “It feels like those in charge are giving up on this plague.”

As for the bright red uncrewed aerial vehicle still quite visible atop Montréal’s Bordeaux, Lavoie fears the worst. “I might fall on someone’s head,” he laments, “or start flying again.” 

If misery indeed loves company, at least Lavoie isn’t feeling lonely. 

Earlier in the week, an inmate with ties to an Italian Mafia family squeezed off three shots at fellow prisoners in a jail southwest of Rome, using a gun officials believe was delivered by a contraband-smuggling drone. The con first used the pistol to force a guard to turn over the keys to his cell, which he still somehow failed to get open. All gunned up with nowhere to go, the inmate decided to take his pops at the intended targets through the bars ­– and, by now predictably, failed in that quest, too. 

Reports say no one was injured in the intended triple-whack, but its confounded author did suffer indigestion after swallowing the SIM card from a mobile phone smuggled in with the gun.

He might well have reconsidered his plot had he read the headlines out of Southern California the previous week, where a man was busted after using a drone to deliver a smorgasbord of contraband drugs to a local prison. After a craft was confiscated by officials as it dropped a package containing heroin, methamphetamine, Xanax, and muscle relaxers, police eventually arrested an Orange County man in possession of several illegal firearms, fentanyl, and a remote controller paired with the drone nabbed at the jail. No word on whether the craft was registered as legally required.

It isn’t clear just how long a prison term the suspect may be slapped with if found guilty, but it’s a pretty safe bet that if he is, he’ll end up pocketing some kind of contraband delivered to his prison by drone. By now, who isn’t?

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