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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dead salmon fry found in Terrace stream prompts response from City

Public Works crews are marking storm drains to raise awareness of salmon habitat vulnerability

RCMP bust five impaired drivers in one day in Terrace and Kitimat

Police were doing road checks as part of distracted driving, seatbelt enforcement campaign

Horgan makes campaign stop in Terrace and Kitimat

BC NDP leader met with local First Nations leaders, reiterated campaign promises

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 27 to Oct. 3

World Farm Animals Day, Drink Beer Day and Virus Appreciation Day are all coming up this week

‘Monkey Beach’ supernatural film adaptation premiers at VIFF

Based on Kitamaat author Eden Robinson’s debut, mystical novel

105 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death as health officials urge B.C. to remember safety protocols

There are currently 1268 active cases, with 3,337 people under public health monitoring

U.S. Presidential Debate Takeaways: An acrid tone from the opening minute

Here are key takeaways from the first of three scheduled presidential debates before Election Day on Nov. 3

B.C. nurses report rise in depression, anxiety, exhaustion due to pandemic

A new UBC study looks into how the COVID-19 response has impacted frontline nurses

National child-care plan could help Canada rebound from COVID-induced economic crisis: prof

A $2 billion investment this year could help parents during second wave of pandemic

Search suspended for Indigenous elder last seen mushroom picking in northwest B.C.

Mushroom picker Thomas (Tommy) Dennis has been missing since Sept. 16

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

16 MLAs retiring from B.C. politics add up to $20M in pensions: Taxpayers Federation

Taxpayers pay $4 for every dollar MLAs contribute to their pensions

‘Bonnie’ and ‘Henry’ among latest litter of service dog puppies

B.C. Alberta Guide Dogs names two pups after provincial health officer

Permanent fish-passage solutions considered at Big Bar landslide

151,000 salmon detected this year north of site

Most Read