The UK Ministry of Justice, is becoming rather worried at the number of illegal drone activities at prisons and is apparently working with drone manufacturers to include prison coordinates in pre-programmed no-fly zones.
A report on Prison Safety and Reform presented to Parliament said that the MoJ will ‘trial, together with industry, the inclusion of prison coordinates in no-fly zones which have the potential to be programmed into the majority of drones on the market. Apparently it has no plans to make the information publically available so the drone flying friends of the lags don’t know if the drone they have paid out for is geoblocked.
While currently the number of attempts to deliver contraband over the walls of a prison by drone is still far outnumbered by conventional methods incidences are increasing. In England and Wales, there were two in 2014, and 33 in 2015.
The MoJ report notes that the increase in numbers may be due to improvements in awareness and reporting of incidents, but that it also reflects the growing knowledge of the technology and availability of drones to the average buyer.
If a prison is designated by the manufacturer as a no-fly zone, the drone will be automatically repelled from flying over the coordinates for the prison area. This does mean releasing prison GPS coordinates to the public which creates a security problem. Some manufacturers offer an opt-out function on their drones, which allows a user to override pre-programmed geo-fencing coordinates. Other No-fly zones currently include military airspace mainly used for fighter pilot or weapons training, and very few other areas as defined by the National Air Traffic Service in the UK. Prisons are considered ‘restricted space’, as are nuclear facilities, but neither have no-fly coordinates programmed by the manufacturer prior to sale.