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Russell Webster

Russell Webster

Criminal Justice & substance misuse expert and author of this blog.

British prison shields itself against drug drones

Guernsey is first UK prison to use electronic disruptor shield to stop drug delivery by drone. Cost between £100 - £250k depending on size of prison.

The original blog post relied to a great extent on a report in the Telegraph.

Guernsey Prison to use disruptor shield

A British prison has become the world’s first to use a new system designed to stop drones flying over perimeter walls to drop contraband into jails.

The device creates a 2,000ft (600m) shield around and above a prison that will detect and deflect the remote-controlled devices.

It uses a series of “disruptors”, which are sensors to jam the drone’s computer, and block its frequency and control protocols. The operator’s screen will go black and the drone will be bounced back to where it came from.

Drones have become a major security problem in Britain’s prisons and are increasingly used to smuggle in drugs, weapons, phones and other valuables.

The new system, called Sky Fence, is being introduced at Les Nicolles prison on Guernsey, where around 20 “disruptors” will be installed on the perimeter and inside.

The Channel Island jail was initially going to install a drone detection system, but went a step further to put in the technology that stops drones in-flight.

How it works

Sky Fence has been created by UK companies Drone Defence and Eclipse Digital Solutions. Nottingham-based company Drone Defence has worked on the idea in the past year. Founder and CEO Richard Gill said:

It disrupts the control network between the flyer and the drone. The drone then activates return to home mode and it will then fly back to the position where it had signal with its flyer.

Mr Gill said the technology is perfectly safe and does not “hack” or damage the drones. It is relatively cheap to install and, depending on the size of the prison, costs range from £100,000 to £250,000.

Eclipse managing director Alan Drinkwater said they had modified existing technology to create Sky Fence.

The new system in Guernsey is part of a £1.7 million security upgrade that also includes new cameras, a new lighting system and new alarms.

The final phases of the work are being completed and the upgrades are due to be ready by June.

Les Nicolles is a mixed category prison which holds both men and women, young offenders and adults, and has a capacity of just 139.

It opened in 1989 and its population has fallen to an all-time low in recent years. It is independent of the mainland prison and justice system and is run by the State of Guernsey.

More details in the video clip below:

Update

An article in the Guardian on 18 December 2018 reported that the six-month pilot had been a complete success and that the MoJ were considering implementing the SkyFence system across the English prison estate.

3 thoughts on “British prison shields itself against drug drones”

  1. I am dubious. Spread spectrum technology fairly common on drones is very difficult for the military to Jam. The transmitter and receiver change frequency together in a pseudorandom order, but drones are sold with GPS they can fly a course with waypoints and waiting times on autopilot with no human control. Presumably why the author claims it will fly back to where it was launched from. If it was on manual control it would crash anywhere and there have been lethal accidents involving drones.

  2. What would be the level of cost a prison is willing to go to to stop this drug-entry point? Is £100000 equal to 4 salaried dogs clearing the yard each morning ? For a 139-prisoner jail would they make a difference to drug detection and retrieval?

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