A drone operator helps to retrieve a drone after photographing over Hart Island in New York, April 29, 2018. Canada’s prison service has earmarked $6 million for electronic systems to prevent tiny drones from dropping illegal drugs, cellphones or other contraband into the yards of institutions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Seth Wenig, File

Federal prisons taking aim at special deliveries from the sky

Correctional Service of Canada tries to prevent tiny drones from dropping illegal drugs

Prison wardens are usually preoccupied with keeping people inside their walls. Now six Canadian prisons are taking steps to shoo away some pesky, flying visitors.

The Correctional Service of Canada has earmarked $6 million for electronic systems to prevent tiny drones from dropping illegal drugs, cellphones or other contraband into the yards of its institutions.

The prison service is alarmed by cases of small, easily purchased flying devices delivering forbidden items weighing up to five kilograms to prisoners from the air.

In one case, the service intercepted a drone-carried package containing $26,500 worth of drugs and tobacco at medium-security Matsqui Institution in British Columbia just before Christmas 2017.

READ MORE: Penticton man charged in quadruple murder makes short but tense court appearance

The service fears the camera-equipped copters could also be used in illicit surveillance operations to glean intelligence that might help with escapes.

In addition, it wants to be able to catch anyone on the ground attempting to just throw a package of contraband over a perimeter fence.

It is seeking a contractor to supply, install and test intrusion-detection systems as well as provide training on how to operate and maintain them.

The systems will be evaluated in a pilot project over the next four years at six prisons: Mission in B.C., Stony Mountain in Manitoba, Cowansville and Donnacona in Quebec, Collins Bay in Ontario, and Dorchester in New Brunswick.

A report will then provide recommendations on next steps with respect to a cross-country rollout, said Correctional Service spokeswoman Esther Mailhot.

Detecting drugs and other contraband is an “ongoing and challenging task” despite practices including searches of offenders, visitors, employees, cells, and vehicles, sometimes using ion scanners and detector dogs, Mailhot said.

“CSC continues to research and introduce new technology as it becomes available to better facilitate the detection of contraband, including drone detection,” she said. “Preventing the introduction of contraband and reducing the use of illicit substances by offenders in correctional institutions is a priority for us.”

READ MORE: U.S. officials mark new $33M border post at Canada border

Federal solicitation documents describing the project say initial research conducted with the help of the National Research Council indicates a radar-based detection system represents the “most mature technology” for intercepting drones. However, it is possible to jam radar systems.

The chosen setup should warn the operator of the presence of an approaching drone at “as great a distance from the perimeter of the institution as possible” to give staff time to mount a response, the documents say.

The prison service also wants the system to:

— Detect an intruder approaching the fence to do a “throw-over”;

— Automatically identify detected targets, such as a person, car, bird or drone, based on characteristics and behaviour;

— Provide a means for staff to see, even at night, where a drone drops its payload and be able to identify nearby people;

— Support a means of allowing friendly drones to be used without generating nuisance alarms.

— Follow @JimBronskill on Twitter

Jim Bronskill , The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Feds chip in $702k to kickstart new daycare program

Will provide 462 new spaces in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows

Man charged in 2018 hit-and-run in Maple Ridge

Michael Howard Thomas was charged on July 19 in provincial court

Pride flags stolen from Maple Ridge church

Went missing sometime Friday night, says Golden Ears United reverend

Whonnock man tried but could not save victim of Maple Ridge fire

Michel Lefebvre was among many who attempted to enter the burning building

Maple Ridge musician’s newest album about “unrequitedness”

Rob Taylor released Passionate Crime earlier this year

VIDEO: Young couple found dead in northern B.C. had been shot, police say

Chynna Noelle Deese of the U.S. and Lucas Robertson Fowler of Australia were found along Highway 97

Hazmat incident closes down Lower Mainland street

One person is believed to be dead, police said

VIDEO: Man found dead near B.C. teens’ truck could be linked to a double homicide

RCMP said they are looking for Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, of Port Alberni

Latest plan is to fly trapped fish by helicopter over Big Bar slide

Multi-pronged plan set in motion to freesalmon blocked by landslide in the Fraser River

Family of missing B.C. senior with dementia frustrated with situation, heartened by community support

Nine days since Grace was last seen the question remains: ‘How can an 86-year-old just disappear?’

Unsealed record suggests U.S. man convicted of murdering Vancouver Island couple left DNA on zip tie in 1987

William Talbott is set to be sentenced Wednesday in the murders of Jay Cook and Tanya Van Cuylenborg

Okanagan Air Cadet challenges gender-exclusive haircut policy

Haircut regulation inspires challenge around gender identity

25 new wheelchair-accessible cabins open at Cultus Lake Provincial Park

Maple Bay Campground is now home to 25 new wheelchair friendly cabins, a first for BC Parks

VIDEO: Bystander training gains traction as tool to prevent sexual harassment, violence

Julia Gartley was sexually assaulted after an event, and no one stepped in to help

Most Read