9 Investigates

9 Investigates drug smuggling using prison drones

ORLANDO, Fla. — Criminals have found a new way to smuggle drugs inside prison and there’s not much authorities can do to stop it.

In the last two years, prisons across the country have reported contraband that was delivered via drone.

In August 2015, an attempted delivery of pot and porn at a prison near Baltimore was reported, and later in October, a drone carrying drugs and blades crashed at a prison in McAlester, Oklahoma.

In August 2016, a small riot in Mansfield, Ohio, broke out after a drone dropped drugs.

Earlier this year, federal officials said they suspected drones were being used to deliver contraband to Miami’s prison.

“It comes down to, we’re extending the technological capabilities of this system,” said Brent Terwilliger, a teacher of unmanned systems at Embry Riddle. “With the level of technology that’s being injected into (drones), you can find it at Best Buy, at Walmart.”

While drones are being sold as toys, they are still treated as aircraft by the Federal Aviation Administration, which means prisons can track them, but they can’t jam their signals or shoot them down.

“That system that you can order online right now, you can take it beyond its legal limits,” said Terwilliger.

The Florida Department of Corrections said in a statement that the “Department is proactively looking into drone detection systems.”

Some states have considered laws that would make flying a drone near a prison a felony.

But experts said as drones get more advanced, such laws might be difficult to enforce.