The drone wars come to British prisons

by on May 16, 2017 at 12:09 pm in Current Affairs, Law, Web/Tech | Permalink

A British prison has become the world’s first to use a new system designed to stop drones flying over perimeter walls to drop contraband into jails.

The device creates a 2,000ft (600m) shield around and above a prison that will detect and deflect the remote-controlled devices.

It uses a series of “disruptors”, which are sensors to jam the drone’s computer, and block its frequency and control protocols. The operator’s screen will go black and the drone will be bounced back to where it came from.

Drones have become a major security problem in Britain’s prisons and are increasingly used to smuggle in drugs, weapons, phones and other valuables.

The new system, called Sky Fence, is being introduced at Les Nicolles prison on Guernsey, where around 20 “disruptors” will be installed on the perimeter and inside.

The Channel Island jail was initially going to install a drone detection system, but went a step further to put in the technology that stops drones in-flight.

Here is the article, via Tyro.  By the way, the newly available BBC TV show, Planet Earth II, is an amazing illustration of the use of drones to track and film nature (that includes us!).

1 Marc Rudajev May 16, 2017 at 12:36 pm
2 Rebecca Li May 16, 2017 at 1:05 pm

Why does this cost 100-250 pounds? It’s just a directed 2.4GHz jammer, I can’t imagine that really costs that much.

3 Sigivald May 16, 2017 at 1:14 pm

“It uses a series of “disruptors”, which are sensors to jam the drone’s computer, and block its frequency and control protocols”

What even is English? (Alternatively, “Dear copy-writer, maybe look up the words you’re using…”)

Sensors don’t jam things, they sense.

And I’m pretty sure they’re not blocking “protocols”, rather the whole signal.

(Re. Rebecca Li’s comment, it made a lot more sense when I looked in and saw it was 100-250 *thousand* pounds, because griping at the cost of a 250 pound automated detecting, tracking, and jamming system seemed a bit off.

At 100K-250K pounds for one square KM, I expect a support contract, dozens of sensor and jammer pairs, networking, software, etc.

It’s not just a beam jammer in someone’s hand, one imagines. The EM emitter will be possibly the cheapest part of the system.)

4 Daniel Weber May 16, 2017 at 1:55 pm

The jammer-vendor demonstrated what it does against a sample COTS drone. And it probably does work against that one specific drone. But there are lots of ways to make drones work, and autonomous systems don’t care if you mess with radio waves.

Maybe you can actually mess up the on-board computers by broadcasting enough energy at them. The Office of Communications would not look too kindly on any third-parties who inevitably get hit by this.

There is still the issue of people using plain old ballistics to fling things into the prison.

From the article, I’m glad that David Matthews has moved on from running his garage band to running a prison. Good career choice, mate.

5 rayward May 16, 2017 at 1:18 pm

I am an obsequious bloke, tut-tut carry on you nefarious venals

6 Ari May 16, 2017 at 2:26 pm

What, how is Tyler or Alex in Planet Earth 2?

7 stephan May 16, 2017 at 3:09 pm

It should be possible to counter the defensive jammers. The drone electronics could be shielded against the jammer. Even if the drone is not not autonomous, communications between the drone antenna and the drone operator console could use a wideband noise-like signal like Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM). Not that easy to jam, and jamming it would also jam all the cell phones in the vicinity.

8 Boonton May 16, 2017 at 3:19 pm

Couldn’t the drone be programmed disregard the ‘jamming’ and just drop it’s contraband in the yard and then fly back out to where the controller can regain the signal?

9 Donald pretari May 16, 2017 at 5:14 pm

Even as we speak, the Klingons are developing drones using a so-called ‘cloaking device’ that repulses jamming. Qapla’

10 chuck martel May 16, 2017 at 5:45 pm

Dropping contraband into prisons via drones is simply a method that by-passes the services of the guards. Disrupting the drones keeps the guards in the prison economic loop and might increase their income slightly. The companies supplying the disruptors are probably owned by retired guards.

11 Benjamin Cole May 16, 2017 at 7:51 pm

Use a slingshot and curveball.

12 Bill May 16, 2017 at 8:02 pm

Hawks, Condors and Falcons.

They can attack the drones. However,

They can also be a substitute for drones,

And they cannot be disrupted with the British electronic warfare system.

13 Donald Pretari May 16, 2017 at 9:02 pm

If the drones look like flying toddlers, will they still be shot down? Or some endangered bird, say? Also, the Santa on his sleigh with reindeer drones I long ago predicted will deliver Christmas gifts. Will they be shot down in the sight of children?

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