DRONES are great for capturing some breathtaking footage previously unattainable without jumping in a helicopter.
It turns out they are also pretty good at smuggling prohibited items such as drugs and mobile phones into prisons.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise given prisoners have been coming up with ingenious ways to bring contraband into jails for quite some time.
Did someone say melting drugs into artwork or human orifices?
The use of drones first made headlines in 2014 when prison officials discovered a drone carrying marijuana and a mobile phone caught in power lines outside the South Carolina jail.
Director of the South Carolina Department of Corrections Bryan P. Stirling said an investigation into the finding led law enforcement to a nearby campground where they discovered the accomplice.
“They were sending in smaller amounts in repeated trips,” he told New York Times.
“They would put it on there, they would deliver it, someone inside would get it somehow, and they would send it back out and send more in.”
The following year saw the method increasing in popularity with a string of highly publicised incidents due to the cheap availability of drones.
A package containing tobacco, marijuana and enough heroin for 100 doses wassuccessfully delivered by a drone into the recreational yard of an Ohio prison.
The manoeuvre was flawless and went unnoticed by prison guards. Well, until prisoners started brawling for ownership of the package.
The same month two men were arrested after a drone containing tobacco, drugs and pornography was discovered on the rear passenger seat of a Ford pick-up truck parked outside Cumberland state prison.
In October, another drone carrying hacksaw blades, superglue, mobile phones and drugs was discovered after clipping a razor wire fence, losing control and crashing into an Oklahoma prison.
The problem is not exclusive to the United States with the BBC reporting a total of 33 incidents last year alone.
Australia has also had its own problems with drones after a drone was detected over Goulburn jail in December last year.
A spokesman for the NSW Department of Corrective Services said an officer in a tower saw the drone 100 metres above the main part of the prison.
“The officer moved out of the tower along the catwalk towards the drone, which flew away from the prison until it was no longer visible. Officers searched the prison and nothing was found,” he told the ABC.
Corrective Services Minister David Elliott said the events did not come as a surprise.
“Technology is getting better, prisoners are getting access and the criminal element is getting access to that technology,” he said.
Mr Elliot said in 2015 there were six cases of drones flying over prisons in NSW alone.
“That is six too many. I need the authority to make sure the community knows this is an illegal activity and I need the authority to make sure prison operators know that they can act within the law,” he said.
Despite these alarming cases, research associate at the Urban Institute Bryce Peterson said the issue was under control for the time being.
“I would say it’s definitely not that widespread a problem right now,” he toldVox.
“But it certainly seems like, down the road, this is something that could become a huge problem.”
However, Mr Peterson admits he could be wrong, because his comments are based on the cases brought to the public attention.
“It’s really hard to say how often it’s happening, because most facilities don’t have adequate systems to stop drones from coming in yet,” he said.
“So the only times you get a report are when people see a drone flying around or if it crashes.”