Federal Agency Seeks Remedy for ‘New & Evolving Threat’ of UAS at Prisons

The Office of Security Technology at the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), an agency of the U.S. Department of Justice, has released a request for information (RFI) on a potential system to keep unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) away from prisons.

Specifically, according to the RFI, the agency wants to “collect information to identify and assess the landscape of technologies and systems that can assist in the BOP’s mission by countering, mitigating and/or interdicting the impact and possible nefarious intent” of drones weighing under 55 lbs.

An “applicable integrated system” for doing so would involve detection, location and tracking, identification, classification, determination of threat or non-threat, response, verification, and clean up/attribution of the aircraft, the RFI says.

“While a complete system that provides all of these capabilities is desirable, the BOP will consider subsystems that only provide one or a few of these capabilities,” the notice adds.

The agency explains that drones are bringing “a new and evolving threat to the BOP mission,” which is the “custody and care of approximately 205,000 federal offenders.”

“From small devices of less than a pound that can provide unauthorized imagery and surveillance, to larger systems that can carry 20 or more pounds of contraband, these devices represent a new and unprecedented challenge for BOP personnel,” the RFI says.

Last month, a UAV was detained in an attempt to smuggle contraband over a wall at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. The attached package contained items including hacksaw blades, a cellphone, cigarettes, cigars, super glue, marijuana, methamphetamines and heroin.

Another recent incident involved three men who were part of a mission to use a UAV to bring drugs, pornographic DVDs and tobacco into a Maryland prison.

After the Oklahoma attempt, Robert Patton, director of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, said, “We are continuing to take a broad approach to increasing awareness in dealing with contraband at all of our facilities statewide. We must maintain vigilance and stay one step ahead of the game in terms of the technology being used in and around facilities.”

Michigan legislators recently introduced bills that would prohibit the operations of a UAV within 1,000 feet of a correctional facility in the state.

More information on submitting responses to the RFI can be found here.


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