Justice Facility Security in the Age of Drones

Quadcopters (colloquially known as drones) and model helicopters possess many similarities. Both are radio-controlled rotorcrafts with enough lift and thrust to move effortlessly through the air. However, the drones of today represent a threat far different from the model helicopters of the past. Some of today’s drones have payload capacities capable of delivering narcotics, cell phones, and weapons and can even be used as a remote controlled weapons platform.

For decades, the price tag of radio controlled model helicopters and the skill required to fly them limited the number of rotorcrafts buzzing around developed areas. The affordability and user friendliness of today’s drones (facilitated by inexpensive electronic stabilizers and gyroscopes) have made these machines far more available and easier to fly.

With as little as $15, anyone can purchase a very basic mini drone powered by two AAA batteries. While this availability gives us the opportunity to see our world from a fantastic new perspective, it also increases the potential for unmanned airborne threats to justice facilities.

 Drone

Not All Drones are Considered Threats

The law enforcement community in particular is using this technology in many positive ways, like search and rescue, remote surveillance, and other tasks that keep officers out of harm’s way. However, personal drones have also been used to fly illicit materials to inmates, and more than a few YouTube videos have demonstrated how deadly they can be when outfitted with fully automatic rifles and self-destruct capabilities. While these may sound like science fiction plots, they are potential threats that could put lives at risk.

For justice facility owners, operators, and inmates, these threats exist on a scale of varying degrees. From identification to neutralization, the design of justice facilities should incorporate electronic counter measures and other mitigation tactics to minimize the threat of malicious drone use.

 Justice Facility Security

A Virtual Canopy over Facilities

One of the more interesting emerging technologies is a detection system made up of sensor arrays that create a virtual canopy above facilities. Tied to a network of audio signatures from every drone on the commercial market, the arrays use supplemental video and infrared cameras to search for drones as small as a humming bird. Incorporating this detection technology into the design of our security control systems is an important first step in countering the threat of drones.

Once identified, lasers and high-powered radiofrequencies can disrupt the target, interceptor drones can capture it, or destructive technologies can be mounted on policing drones to obliterate unwelcomed quadcopters.

A Calculated Response

Both drone threats and the response tactics are in their infancy stages, but that may change this holiday season. Drones are expected to be one of the most popular Christmas gifts, with estimates of 750,000 to 1,000,000 in sales – surely more than a few of which will fall into the wrong hands.

While courts determine the legality of requiring transponders in drones with ownership signatures, we will continue to research the potential threats and explore the expanding market of countermeasures. Armed with this information, our clients can make informed decisions about how to respond while operating well within their policies and procedures.

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