A Channel Islands prison is becoming the first anywhere in the world to deploy new counter-drone technology.
Used to smuggle all manner of materials to those inside, drones/UAVs are an increasingly burdensome prison security issue. Cell phones, drugs, weapons – these and numerous other items have all been known to reach prison inhabitants via drone.
The state-of-the-art prison security system stops UAVs from being able to get banned items to inmates. Once its ‘SkyFence’ technology is operational, Guernsey’s Les Nicolles prison will be the world’s first ‘drone-proof jail.’
SkyFence Drone Shield
Co-developed by Drone Defence and Eclipse Digital Solutions, SkyFence has a price tag of £100,000-to-£250,000, according to news agency AFP.
SkyFence works by generating a 2,000 foot ‘shield’ around prison infrastructure. This shield is capable of detecting and deflecting unmanned systems and it features sensors called ‘disrupters’. These disrupters interrupt (‘jam’) communications between a drone and its control unit. All further flight progress is now impossible. The drone instead enters ‘return’ mode and is sent back to its operator and as this is essentially an electronic takeover, there’s no physical damage inflicted whatsoever.
"It disrupts the control network between the flyer and the drone”, Drone Defence founder/CEO Richard Gill tells The Telegraph. “The drone then activates return to home mode and it will then fly back to the position where it had signal with its flyer. Someone described it as the final piece in a prison's security puzzle. I think it could have a significant worldwide impact."
Les Nicolles prison’s SkyFence drone-shield installation comprises 20 disruptors, both on its perimeter and within its confines. The counter-drone system is set to go operational in Guernsey at the start of July as part of a £1.7m Les Nicolles prison security enhancement programme. Other elements of this include upgraded alarms, lighting and cameras.
“This is the first time this technology has been used in any prison anywhere in the world,” states prison governor Dave Matthews. “I would like to see it adopted in other UK prisons because it has become a significant problem there. Drones can carry weapons, contraband, mobile phones and drugs. This is about prevention.”
Guernsey’s only prison, Les Nicolles is within St Sampson parish, on the north east of the island. Open since 1989, it’s a State of Guernsey-run, mixed category (having male and female occupants), 11-wing prison with a capacity of 134. The intention is to deploy SkyFence much more extensively, if it proves to be effective there.
UAV operator image copyright US Navy – courtesy Wikimedia Commons. Used for representational purposes only