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

Firefighters extinguish brush fire near Port Alberni residential area

Fire was discovered in bush off Kitsuksis Creek Trail

BCHL: Battle for Bulldogs’ roster spots heats up as main camp begins

Alberni Valley’s new head coach will get his first look at revamped Jr. A hockey team

BCHL: Alberni Valley Bulldogs add experience to blueline

Jimmy Rayhill commits to Bulldogs as main training camp set to start Aug. 19

Port Alberni cadet learns outdoor skills at Vernon camp

Outdoor skills some of leadership learning activities at annual summer camp

70 years of lifting: Canadian man, 85, could cinch weightlifting championship

The senior gym junkie is on track to win the World Masters Weightlifting championship

U16 B.C. fastpitch team named national champs

Girls went undefeated at national tournament in Calgary

Advocates ‘internationalize’ the fight to free Raif Badawi from Saudi prison

Raif Badawi was arrested on June 17, 2012, and was later sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail for his online criticism of Saudi clerics

Canadian entrepreneurs turning beer byproduct into bread, cookies and profits

Some breweries turn to entrepreneurs looking to turn spent grain into treats for people and their pets

Canada ‘disappointed’ terror suspect’s British citizenship revoked

Jack Letts, who was dubbed “Jihadi Jack” by the U.K. media, has been detained in a Kurdish prison for about two years

Chrystia Freeland condemns violence in Hong Kong, backs right to peaceful assembly

There have been months of protests in the semi-autonomous region

B.C. VIEWS: Log exports and my other errors so far in 2019

Plastic bags, legislature overspending turn out differently

Most Read