Drones Used To Smuggle Contraband Into Prison

Two New Jersey men were charged with conspiring to use drones to smuggle contraband, including marijuana, steroids, syringes, cell phones and cell phone equipment, into the federal correctional facility at Fort Dix, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.

Special agents of the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Inspector General (DOJ-OIG) obtained evidence of at least seven drone deliveries since July 2018 containing contraband meant for inmates at Fort Dix. Goolcharran used cell phones to coordinate the drops with others, including text messaging aerial shots of locations at Fort Dix to better position the drops and to discuss weather conditions. On the same day as a drone drop in April 2019, local police in the area conducted a vehicle stop on Denichilo and Goolcharran less than five miles from Fort Dix. On March 7, 2020, an individual fitting Goolcharran’s description and another individual were captured by a surveillance camera carrying and flying a drone from a launch spot located in the woods outside of Fort Dix. Law enforcement also obtained evidence of Goolcharran bringing multiple drones to a store for repairs, including a broken drone shortly after the March 7, 2020, drone flight.

On March 12, 2020, law enforcement agents, acting on information obtained by Fort Dix officials, approached Denichilo and another individual at a launch site near Fort Dix, minutes after Fort Dix officials had observed a drone flying over a housing unit at the prison. Both men fled, and Denichilo was apprehended hiding in a ditch near the launch site. Fort Dix officials also found an inmate in the area of the drone drop inside the prison in possession of 34 cell phones, nine chargers, 51 SIM cards and other telephone equipment. Agents also seized an SUV near the launch site outside of the prison that contained the drone in the backseat.

(Via Justice.gov.)

This incident strongly reminds me of the dope mule robot from Heavy Weather, a 1994 novel by Bruce Sterling:

Then she saw it too. A bouncing machine. Something very much like a camouflage-painted kangaroo.

It was crossing the hills with vast, unerring, twenty-meter leaps. A squat metal sphere, painted in ragged patches of dun and olive drab. It had a single thick, pistoning, metal leg...

The thing spent most of its time airborne, a splotchy cannonball spinning on its axis and kicking like a flea against the Texan earth. It was doing a good eighty klicks an hour. As it got closer she saw that its underside was studded with grilled sensors...

"...this is a smuggler's vehicle... One spoke, and a gyroscope inside, and a global positioning system." He shrugged. "And some mega chip inside so it never runs into anything and no cop ever sees it."

Obviously, the technology needed to make sure that cops (by and large) didn't see it still needs to be developed...

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