Alarming Number of Drones Flew Over Georgia State Prisons in 2017

Authorities are growing more and more concerned.

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Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are more than just remote-controlled hobby items—they’re tools, like anything else. These tools have previously been used to smuggle various contraband into and out of prisons across the country, and now, it seems that the number of times this has occurred in the state of Georgia has increased dramatically. According to Fox5Atlanta, from 2013 through 2016, prison staff caught three drones above their airspace. In the past six months, that number climbed to 35. Georgia state prison authorities are looking for answers, and more importantly, deterrents and defense mechanisms.

Most of the time, the items being smuggled inside the prison walls consist of tobacco, chargers, cell phones, drugs, or porn, but corrections officers fear that this could lead down far more dangerous roads. “I would say the biggest fear for any of us is a gun be introduced into the prison system because with that they could overtake our staff,” said Georgia Department of corrections deputy director Clay Nix, according to the report. Of course, this concern isn’t too far off, as drones can carry that kind of weight and there isn’t too much to prevent inmates from doing so. Additionally, last month an inmate in South Carolina, Jimmy Causey, escaped by using wire cutters delivered to him by drone. He cut through the fences on the prison perimeter and ran off. He was eventually caught in Texas and incarcerated again.

According to Fox5Atlanta, two men who were arrested in Mitchell County had a drone near Autry State prison, with trip data within it showing the UAV’s earlier flight paths hovering above Wheeler Correctional Institute four times in one night. The following night, the drone traveled to Autry State Prison four times. These two correctional facilities are 120 miles apart. “It’s frustrating,” said Nix. “Because it tells you that’s how they’re beating you. They can fly the drone with GPS technology right to a certain point to meet an individual who’s waiting. Before you weren’t looking over the fence because nothing was coming over—maybe thrown over the fence—but it wasn’t flying over the fence. They’re looking up now. They’re listening when they’re outside… knowing that this is occurring.”

This fear has publicly been vocalized before, and it seems that as more and more incidents occur, the desire for actual solutions rises, too. We at The Drive Aerial have a few immediate solutions, all of which we’ve covered previously. First of all, correctional facilities should probably be considered “critical infrastructures,” and the FAA and drone manufacturers should have these areas geo-fenced off. Of course, we’ve seen what hackers can do to these restrictions, so this wouldn’t be a bulletproof plan, but Nix is keen on drones implementing these regulations more thoroughly. “A lot of the drones come pre-programmed where the coordinates of an airport are. It'll just shut down. So we would like to incorporate that technology into drones to program them where the prisons are.”

To bolster this preventative software measure, prisons could implement anti-drone guns into their business plan and teach guards in towers how to use them. These are all primitive solutions, of course, but they’re definitely on the right track and more effective than just letting these incidents reoccur without instituting a plan. We’ll keep you updated on the number of drones flying in and out of prison. Let’s see if they decrease anytime soon.