As we all know, criminals and technology can make for a highly toxic cocktail. Now, of course, we’re hearing every day about master criminals out of the Russian Federation stealing all our credit card information. There’s also the shrugging acceptance in Europe, North and South America as the Chinese bomb us with knock-off versions of all our favorite Apple, Samsung, Sony and Microsoft goodies. But it’s the little stuff that really irritates taxpayers. We all know that there are criminals trying to break out of prison, but now there’s the novel crime of certain wicked desperadoes trying to break in!
Now there are often cases of attempts at hand-throwing illegal phones over walls and fences to incarcerated loved ones. This usually is a tough one unless you have a really strong arm, in which case phones need to be well packed and padded in case no one is there to catch them.
In late April 2014, an attempt to fly a drone carrying phones, marijuana, and tobacco crashed outside the Robert E. Lee Correctional Center in the Charleston suburb of Bishopville, South Carolina, a maximum-security prison. Authorities believe this is the very first time an unmanned aircraft had been used in an effort to breach prison walls in the state, “and maybe in this whole country,” said state Department of Corrections spokeswoman Stephanie Givens.
Local police arrested one man over the drone caper and are seeking another as yet unnamed suspect. Brenton Lee Doyle, 28, appeared in Charleston County for a hearing. Doyle, who has a history of minor convictions, is charged with attempting to introduce contraband into a prison as well as possession of the drug flunitrazopam. This drug, a muscle relaxant also known as roofies, is usually placed into cocktails in taverns where it works as a kind of relaxant knockout punch, like a Mickey Finn, disabling victims so that they can be raped and robbed while unconscious.
Doyle told the judge he had never even seen such a thing as a drone and that neither the state nor local police had said anything about a drone at the time of his arrest, his attorney Wayne Floyd said. His case was continued until September. Authorities said the search for Doyle’s cohort goes on.
This may seem to be just a glitch or a blip. A rare occurrence that it’s a waste of public energy to worry about and waste publicly employed manpower upon. Yet, as Ms. Givens wanted to emphasize, illegal cellphones, just as in general society, are becoming an issue in prisons nationwide. Indeed, one particular case at the same prison set metaphorical alarm bells ringing in 2010 when a cellphone was smuggled inside and used to put out an assassination contract on a prison officer, Captain Robert Johnson, who was shot six times in his home, but happily survived according to the Charleston Post-Dispatch.
Still, as Wired magazine points out, a custom-made quadro-copter drone can be built for you for as little as $5,000. The latest little drones are built tough and cheap. Hardware includes a GU-INS flight controller (GU-INS is a inertial navigation system combined with GPS system, designed for miniature flying drones), along with carbon fiber blades, lithium-ion battery packs and a custom camera mount designed to fit everything from DSLRs (Digital Single Lens Reflex cameras) to larger video cameras. Such drones can be set up to carry as much as 8lb of goods comfortably. Cameras could also be custom-fitted, even, theoretically at least, with weapons. Still, even though this quadro-coptor includes GPS and routing software, the vehicle’s primary controls would need to be worked by two trained operators, one navigating and maintaining flight direction while the other controls camera angles.
Such expertise might be beyond our aforementioned criminals in particular, but with time and patience, such training can conceivably be given to anybody. And if the cost of ownership is steep at $5,000, consider visiting your favorite search engine. Drones can be rented for as little as $30 per hour.