Texas man charged for using DJI Inspire drone in prison contraband drop

texas dji inspire drone prison contraband

A Texas man has been charged for allegedly flying a DJI Inspire drone loaded with drugs and other contraband into a Fort Worth prison.

Court documents reveal that 42-year-old Bryant LeRay Henderson flew a DJI Inspire drone into the airspace over FMC Fort Worth, a federal correctional center in the south part of the city, just before midnight on Wednesday, May 4.

The drone crashed on prison property and was recovered by the staff. Guards found that the DJI drone was carrying a package containing 46 g of crystal meth, 87 g of pressed THC, two prepaid cellphones, and nine MP3 players.

Read: DJI reseller lists Avata drone accessories on web before launch

Drone flight logs reveal tainted history of suspect

During the investigation, authorities pulled surveillance video from a nearby high school. It showed a man in a red Chevy Tahoe removing a drone and a package from the vehicle (screenshot above). The man launched the drone toward the prison and drove off.

While law enforcement officials could obtain a license plate number from the CCTV footage easily, it wasn’t until two and a half weeks later that the vehicle was found abandoned in a travel lane.

Inside the car, officials found Henderson’s debit card, a DJI drone controller, various drone accessories (rechargeable batteries, a propeller box, and dropping mechanisms), 18 smartphones, tobacco products, and vacuum-packed containers with steroid labels connected to a fishing line and a key ring.

They later powered on the controller recovered from the car next to the drone picked up from the prison yard, and the devices paired immediately. 

Then, from the drone, investigators recovered 70 usable flight logs, which included date/time stamps as well as speed, height, and location data. They identified four flights that intruded into FMC Fort Worth’s airspace and another two that intruded into airspace over FCI Seagoville, another federal correctional center southeast of Dallas.

Officials then queried the FAA’s database and found that Henderson did not possess an airman’s certification and that the drone in question was registered to another owner who had canceled his registration in August 2018. FAA records further confirmed that the federal correctional institutions were restricted flight areas.

Now, the charges filed against Henderson include one count of attempting to provide contraband in prison, one count of serving as an airman without an airman’s certificate, and one count of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance.

If convicted, Henderson could face up to 45 years total in prison.

Read: New Gremsy drone gimbal for mapping, surveying can lift up to 9kg

Drone delivery of contraband a growing problem

According to US Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Chad E. Meacham, contraband drone deliveries are quickly becoming the bane of prison officials’ existence.

Just last month, a 44-year-old Houston man was charged in the Eastern District of Texas for allegedly operating a drone over FCI Beaumont in east Texas. Before that, a 29-year-old former inmate had pleaded guilty to conspiring to smuggle phones and tobacco into FCI Fort Dix in New Jersey. And last fall, three Atlanta men were sentenced to a year each in federal prison for using drones to smuggle contraband into Telfair State Prison in Georgia.

Meacham says:

Illicit goods pose a threat to guards and inmates alike – and when it comes to cellphones, the threat often extends outside prison walls. We are determined to stop this trend in its tracks.

Read: Florida man shoots down Sheriff’s Office drone investigating possible burglary

Subscribe to DroneDJ on YouTube for exclusive videos

Load more...
Show More Comments