Prisons around the world have implemented anti-drone systems in an effort to curb smuggling, but many remain with little or no methods for stopping outside drones from flying over prison groups. Prisoners have previously been caught receiving items from others that are delivered via drone, and now one prisoner has topped them all: he managed to escape from a maximum-security prison in South Carolina thanks in part to a drone.
The inmate, Jimmy Causey, is believed to have received wire cutters via drone to aid in his escape from the prison. According to prison officials, it is thought that the wire cutters were dropped into the prison yard from a drone flying overheard. The tools, along with a smuggled cell phone, firearms, and a minimum of $47,000 in cash, were used. It isn’t clear whether the other items were also dropped via drone or were smuggled in using a different method.
The prison officials didn’t elaborate on why they believe a drone was used as part of the escape plan, but did say that the inmate’s absence wasn’t noticed for 18 hours, giving him ample time to make a getaway. During that time, he managed to travel about 1,200 miles to Texas, where he was caught at 4AM sleeping in a motel. This isn’t the first time Causey managed to escape from prison; the first time he pulled off an escape plan, he was likewise caught while staying in a motel room.
Not surprisingly, officials plan to keep Causey in an extra-high-security unit to prevent a third escape. Whether the prison has anti-drone technologies in place is unclear. Different types of these technologies have been introduced over past months, including anti-drone drones that launch nets at unfamiliar aerial vehicles, knocking them out of the sky. A different type of anti-drone system involves using a ‘force field’ to jam a drone’s communications, forcing it to turn around and return to the last place it had a signal.
No doubt additional prisons will implement some type of anti-drone technology in the future, but doing so comes with a large associated cost. Regardless, many systems are less than perfect and drones may be able to enter undetected anyway, particularly at night. The FAA has attempted to curb drone misuse via mandatory registration, but that is only necessary in certain circumstances and depends on the drone operator following the law…which a prisoner smuggler certainly won’t do.