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UK Prisons continue to pay a high price for outdated legislation on counter-drone technology

We believe drones are one of the most exciting technological advancements of the last decade – but appreciate that in the wrong hands, can also be one of the most disruptive.

As the technology advances at a rapid rate, so too do the opportunities for criminals to exploit this technology for their own gain.

UK prisons continue to pay a high price for the recent improvements in this technology, as incidents of drone incursions within prison walls continue to rise. The motive for these attacks, invariably, is to smuggle contraband.

As far back as 2018, our founder and CEO, Richard Gill, was on the BBC Morning Breakfast Show discussing the impacts of drones on prison security. This was following a successful deployment of our ‘SkyFence’ drone defence system in Guernsey Prison in the Channel Islands – a system that continues be highly effective and successful to this day.

The Channel Islands are free to create their own legislation, which was duly done in order to allow the installation of this system. However, the rest of the UK hasn’t yet followed suit, and UK prisons therefore still hampered by outdated legislation on counter-drone technology.

The problem

Ferrying drugs by drone into the windows of cells and providing inmates with contraband is now easy. Gone are the days where it was necessary to smuggle such items in person into a prison. A smuggler can now safely stand 500m away, and fly in their payload by drone.

The estimation is that £550,000 worth of drugs, most of which were in the Class A division, were provided to prisoners in 2019 in just five different prisons in the UK. The nationwide figure is likely to run into tens of millions of pounds. 

According to the Ministry Of Justice figures, the number of illegal substances smuggled into UK prisons has risen significantly each year since 2014. Of course, this also has a knock on effect for the levels of violence and suicide rates in prison too.

What needs to be done?

We have already successfully demonstrated the solution to drone incursions in prisons, our SkyFence system is operational and proven to be highly effective in our case study in Guernsey Prison. SkyFence serves as an electronic countermeasure system which protects prisons from drones by blocking the signals to the drones as they near the prison boundaries, forcing them to ‘return-to-home’ or simply land.

However, in order for these systems to be rolled out across the UK, the law needs to change to allow such electronic countermeasures to be installed and used. There is growing support in parliament for such changes, including campaigning by some senior politicians. However, we appreciate that changing legislation and law takes time.

The solution

Drones are taking a high toll on prisons and the people within their walls, and need to be stopped. It’s a technical problem that requires a technical solution, and as our case study in Guernsey Prison has proven, such solutions are available and are highly effective. The technology is ready and can be deployed nationally in a short space of time.

A government-led initiative on drone countermeasures might well be the way forward when it comes to changing the law, with a technology-based focus rather than legislative focus (to ensure law-abiding drone users aren’t unnecessarily punished by any changes in law).

Legislation changes will allow proven technology to deal with the issue.

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