France to spend $14 million against drones transporting contraband into prisons

drone transport contraband prison

In another attempt to battle the spreading problem of drones transporting contraband to prison inmates around the globe, France is soliciting bids from companies to install anti-UAV defense systems in many of the nation’s penitentiaries.

As DroneDJ has reported over the past year, the incidence of drones being used to transport contraband – including drugs, tobacco, mobile phones, electronics, and even weapons – to prison inmates has not only increased dramatically, but spread to virtually all countries where consumer UAVs are accessible. France has been no exception to that, with jails across the country reporting rising numbers of intercepted flights, as well as successful drops authorities only discover when banned payloads are found circulating among detainees. 

To help battle that, French correctional officials have initiated a bidding process for over $14.7 million in anti-drone tech.

According to a public notice posted online, France’s Direction of Penitentiary Administration has called for private sector proposals for systems capable of blocking remote navigation tech abord drones transporting contraband, or otherwise violating banned airspace around prisons. Bids are to propose “complete jamming systems of illicit communications (GSM, WIFI, etc.),” as part of “a detection, identification, and neutralization solution of drones” at jails around the country. 

Top French counter-UAV companies likely vying for the business, including Keas and Cebair, will also be expected to “provide the attendant services of training (staff) in the use of the platform.”

Following several spectacular jailbreaks carried out by helicopters landing in exercise yards over the last couple decades, French authorities installed criss-crossing cables over open areas to prevent choppers from descending onto jail grounds. That wiring grid, however, has been no problem for small UAVs to pass through, permitting the rising deployment of the craft for illicit deliveries that have been rife elsewhere in the world.

In addition to the frequency of that traffic increasing, the organization and sophistication of the activity has also quickly evolved. Interception of drones transporting contraband to prisons in North America have netted payloads of banned material worth over $25,000 on internal black markets.

Earlier this month authorities in South Carolina busted two different groups of people using a total fleet of 12 large UAVs to run illegal substances into the local jail. In December, meanwhile, authorities in Colombia broke up a ring operated by guards in the maximum-security Tramacúa Prison using drones to transport contraband in for resale to inmates. Payloads included cell phones, SIM cards, tobacco, cannabis, and even take-out food delivered on-demand to detainees. 

In France, some penitentiaries have reported as many as three weekly attempts of UAVs seeking to drop banned loot to inmates, with at least as many flights believed to succeed than are thwarted. Now authorities are moving to turn back that flow of aerial deliveries. According to officials quoted in French media reports, at maximum security facilities where detection and jamming tech now up for bid has been installed, attempted deliveries have dramatically dropped or ceased altogether.

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