Special Delivery: Finnish Prisons Struggle to Stop Drug-Smuggling DronesCC0Tech12:05 11.10.2017(updated 12:15 11.10.2017) Get short URL121630
While lauded for their ability to assist the police and armed forces, drones are increasingly being used to smuggle drugs into Finnish prisons. Although the technology that could stop errant drones already exists in the Nordic country, Finland’s current legislation specifically forbids its use, exacerbating the problem.
In recent years, drones have become increasingly accessible to consumers. While frequently used for an array of purposes ranging from goods delivery to traffic monitoring, drones have also become a useful smuggling device, Finnish national broadcaster Yle reported.
Earlier this year, Finnish prison guards witnessed an unmanned aerial vehicle landing in the inner yard. Attached to the drone with a barely visible fishing line was a sock. Inside it was a mobile phone with a battery, as well as a copious amount of Subutex brand opioid buprenorphine tablets.
While this ‘special delivery’ was doubtlessly intended for an inmate, it was intercepted by prison staff. The smuggling drone turned out to be programmed to return to the starting point about a kilometer from the site. The drone’s operator was never caught.
According to Criminal Sanctions Agency specialist, Tommi Saarinen, there have been many similar incidents.
“I believe instances of smuggling by drone will only increase. Drones are easily obtainable, they have become a sort of plaything to the civilian world,” Tommi Saarinen said.
Drone-propelled smuggling seems to be a low-risk undertaking, since unmanned vehicles can be controlled remotely from afar and programmed for automatic return. Even small drones have a carrying capacity of several kilograms, which is more than sufficient to transfer illegal items such as handguns or drugs.
This is what makes “drone delivery” extra lucrative for bootleggers. Saarinen estimated the street value of Subutex at around €12 a pill, yet pointed out that it may become ten times as high in prison.
At present, drone users are not registered, and there is no possible way of establishing the identity of the owner, even when the device gets intercepted.
Saarinen ventured that drones, despite their small frame and relatively silent motors, could be tracked and ultimately downed by a task force utilizing firearms, water cannons or simple nets, yet admitted that this enterprise would be wasteful of communal resources.
A much simpler solution is to use existing anti-drone hardware that traces down radio signals all drones emit to eventually control them and force them to the ground. At present, however, these measures are not permitted, Saarinen lamented, as Finnish law only allowed for the UAVs to be located.
“Remotely controlled drones and their technology are developing in leaps and bounds, while legislation is lagging behind,” Saarinen complained.
Meanwhile, the Finnish police, who previously experimented with hobby-type drones in their work, are equipping themselves with sturdier all-weather drones capable of performing more demanding assignments. The new drones have a broad field of use, assisting the police in documenting crime scenes by taking aerial pictures, Yle reported.