B.C. Cor­rec­tions looks at how to pre­vent con­tra­band drops by drones

The Prince George Citizen - - Front Page - Jen­nifer SALTMAN

Smug­glers are tak­ing to the air and us­ing drones to get past walls and fences to de­liver drugs, cell­phones and other con­tra­band to in­mates at cor­rec­tional cen­tres.

That is why B.C. Cor­rec­tions is gath­er­ing in­for­ma­tion about ways it can use technology to pro­tect its 10 provin­cial in­sti­tu­tions from drones.

While drones are not yet “a sig­nif­i­cant concern,” as they are in other ju­ris­dic­tions, the agency says it is al­ways look­ing for ways to re­spond to po­ten­tial new threats.

“To this end, B.C. Cor­rec­tions is cur­rently con­sult­ing with se­cu­rity ad­vi­sors on drone de­tec­tion op­tions,” the ser­vice said in an email.

B.C. Cor­rec­tions would not pro­vide data about drone-re­lated in­ci­dents at its fa­cil­i­ties “due to se­cu­rity.”

In a re­quest for in­for­ma­tion that closed on Mon­day, Cor­rec­tions B.C. noted that the drone in­dus­try has grown over the years, and there is po­ten­tial for the de­vices to be used for surveil­lance and smug­gling con­tra­band.

For that rea­son, it is in­ter­ested in technology that can de­tect drones in use, within and around one kilometre from its jails. The agency is look­ing to find out the level of mar­ket in­ter­est, get in­for­ma­tion about new tech­nolo­gies and ap­proaches to drone de­tec­tion, and get cost es­ti­mates. The type of de­tec­tion equip­ment it hopes to use has not been de­ter­mined, how­ever some com­mon ways to de­tect drones in­clude cam­eras and sen­sors that de­tect the sound of a drone or pick up its radio fre­quency.

B.C. Cor­rec­tions is not the first agency to look at drone de­tec­tion, which is com­mon in the U.S., where con­tra­band smug­gling by drones is a big­ger prob­lem. The Cor­rec­tional Ser­vice of Canada, which over­sees 43 fed­eral in­sti­tu­tions across the coun­try, in­clud­ing nine in B.C., will spend $6-mil­lion over the next three years on a pi­lot of its drone de­tec­tion pro­gram at six in­sti­tu­tions.

“Sev­eral in­ci­dents within the last few years have re­vealed that there is an emerg­ing po­ten­tial vec­tor for introducin­g con­tra­band to an in­sti­tu­tion cre­ated by small com­mer­cially avail­able drones,” said CSC spokesper­son Véronique Val­lée.

B.C. Cor­rec­tions is not the first agency to look at drone de­tec­tion, which is com­mon in the U.S., where con­tra­band smug­gling by drones is a big­ger prob­lem.

Val­lée said they do not keep data spe­cific to drone de­liv­er­ies.

The ser­vice is­sued a re­quest for pro­pos­als for the de­tec­tion sys­tem, which closed on July 31.

It’s ex­pected that about $1 mil­lion will be spent this year on the project.

The project will take place at Mis­sion, Collins Bay (On­tario), Cowansvill­e (Que­bec), Don­na­cona (Que­bec), Dorch­ester (New Brunswick), and Stony Moun­tain (Man­i­toba) in­sti­tu­tions over the next four years.

Val­lée said that the in­sti­tu­tions were se­lected based pri­mar­ily on the num­ber of re­ported drone sightings, as well as mak­ing sure each re­gion of the prov­ince has at least one test site.

It’s ex­pected that the first sys­tem will be in­stalled by March 31, 2020, with the rest com­pleted by March 31, 2022.

The ser­vice has not de­ter­mined in which or­der the in­sti­tu­tions will re­ceive their de­tec­tion sys­tems.

The pi­lot ends in March 2023, at which time a re­port will be pre­pared pro­vid­ing rec­om­men­da­tions on next steps.

“CSC reg­u­larly re­views the use of in­no­va­tive se­cu­rity tools to en­hance its ca­pac­ity to limit se­cu­rity in­ci­dents and pre­vent se­cu­rity breaches,” Val­lée said.

Re­stricted airspace cov­ers fed­eral pris­ons and there are no-fly zones over provin­cial de­ten­tion cen­tres, which also have signs on their perime­ter fences telling the pub­lic that drones are for­bid­den in the area.

Trans­port Canada spokesper­son An­nie Joan­nette said that un­der the Aero­nau­tics Act, any­one who vi­o­lates con­trolled or re­stricted airspace with any size drone used for any pur­pose could be sub­ject to fines of up to $25,000 and/or prison time.

Drone op­er­a­tors are also sub­ject to the Crim­i­nal Code and all provin­cial, ter­ri­to­rial and mu­nic­i­pal laws about pri­vacy and trespassin­g.

“Us­ing a drone in a reck­less and neg­li­gent man­ner could cause prop­erty dam­age or bod­ily harm, re­sult­ing in law­suits, fines, and jail time,” said Joan­nette.

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