North Carolina Governor, Roy Cooper, signed two bills this week to regulate the use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS or drones). First, House Bill 337 revises existing state drone law to make that existing state drone law applicable to model aircraft. House Bill 128 prohibits drone use near prisons –with the term “near” being defined
Contraband Drone Crashes Near Prison in Washington State
Last week, a drone carrying 16 individual bags of marijuana, cell phones and chargers, two bags of tobacco, and 31 oxycodone pills crashed into the ground near the Washington State Prison yard.
A corrections department spokeswoman, Joan Heath, said that the drone crashed into the ground near the prison around 10:45 p.m. Drones carrying contraband into prison yards has been a growing problem. It is the newest way that inmates can get contraband into the prison to sell to other prisoners for a significant profit. For the most part, prison administrators only know that a drone has come and gone because pieces of packages dropped from the sky are found stuck in the prison yard fences or on the ground near the prison yard.
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DOJ Reports on Drones Flying Contraband to Prisons
While drone delivery services are certainly on the agendas of large retailers like Amazon, inmates in jails across the U.S. are already using drones to receive their own aerial contraband shipments. Through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, the Department of Justice (DOJ) revealed that there have been many attempts over the past five years to transport contraband to prisoners in the U.S. from mobile phones, to drugs, and even pornography. State facilities have also reported similar incidents over the years. Drone expert and drone legislation advocate, Troy Rule, of Arizona State University, says, “Civilian drones are becoming inexpensive, easy to operate and powerful. A growing number of criminals seem to be recognizing their potential value as tools for bad deeds.” And the problem is that current anti-drone technologies fail to protect prisons against these drone deliveries. While smuggling contraband into prison through any method violates federal law, no statute currently prohibits drones from flying near correctional facilities (aside from some newly implemented local laws) – this is yet another loophole in the legislation layout of drone laws.
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