Drone-based contraband delivery has been an escalating threat over the past years as more drones become available and more pilots look to find ways to circumvent traditional security measures at correctional facilities to deliver high-value goods to inmates. While the threat of drones at correctional facilities remained top of mind for security teams, this past year brought unprecedented challenges to correctional operations and how prisons manage their population and security amid a global pandemic. 

Many state departments of corrections, including Alabama, have reported an increase in attempted illegal activity related to contraband introduction during the COVID-19 pandemic. Correctional facilities have closed their doors to visitors, so the barrier for bringing in contraband has become tighter. However, the airspace remains completely exposed and open for drones to deliver drugs, weapons, cell phones and other dangerous materials – and with this being perhaps the only point of entry for criminals to penetrate a correctional facility, counter-drone programs are becoming an increasingly urgent technology to protect facilities. 

Missing Link with Detecting Drones at Correctional Facilities 

Correctional facilities have significant security resources, from fences, patrols, watchtowers, and extensive camera and surveillance systems to monitor all movement. However, many drones spotted at correctional facilities are found because the flight failed, crashed, got caught in wiring, or was identified by an eyewitness. Opportunistic criminals will look to adjust for these measures – make sure they fly at night or in low visibility and keep their flights short and targeted to avoid being seen. 

Read the final report of a 9-month airspace security study completed by a state department of corrections.  

The only way for correctional facilities to understand their drone threat is to measure their airspace activity with drone detection technology. In 2018, Dedrone worked with a state department of corrections, conducting a 9-month-long airspace activity analysis to determine the drone threat's true nature in their airspace. During the study, there were nine instances when Dedrone technology detected unauthorized drones, and staff were able to intervene. Today, Dedrone works with over 50 correctional facilities globally, including facilities with Kentucky Department of Corrections, Maine Department of Corrections and Georgia Department of Corrections.  


Control Your Airspace with Dedrone Counter-Drone Technology 

Dedrone provides correctional facilities an automated, reliable way to detect drones and protect operations from contraband deliveries. 

  • Detect drones before they fly over a facility: Early warning allows for teams to observe the drone alert and determine whether or not it poses a threat 
  • Trigger real-time alerts to staff automatically: The Dedrone system provides alerts to staff whether they’re on patrol, manning a command center, or offsite. 
  • Track the drone’s flight pathOnly deploy the resources you need to track down a pilot – no wild chases – save your team’s time by directing them only where the contraband may be dropped, or pilot may be located 
  • Capture and record forensic evidence: Whether the drone is visiting your facility for the first time or has made multiple visits, Dedrone software provides historical data for you to use should you need to investigate a pilot or hand over evidence to law enforcement for further prosecution 
  • Make strategic decisions and investments based on real data: Dedrone offers a scalable solution that fits your threat profile, the scope of your drone problem, and stays within your budget. 

Drone Contraband No Longer a Covert Crime with Dedrone  

Reduce your risk of drone contraband deliveries with Dedrone technology. Counter-drone technology closes a vulnerable gap in a correctional facility’s security program. By protecting your airspace, and integrating counter-drone technology into your existing security system, correctional facilities will not only prevent drone-based contraband deliveries, but also capture valuable data to hold criminals liable for their actions.  

US federal, state and county courts are increasingly charging, prosecuting and convicting drone pilots for illegal contraband deliveries, including with Nebraska Department of Corrections. In March 2020, The U.S. Department of Justice brought charges against two drone pilots who were caught smuggling contraband at a federal prison.  

Airspace security programs begin with the installation of a foundational sensor to collect data on airspace activity. Simple to install and ready within minutes, Dedrone technology is designed to help your correctional facility ensure that your operations are protected from any airspace breaches. 


Abby Surdoval is the Corrections Sales Manager for Dedrone and can be reached at Abigail.surdoval@dedrone.com  

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Abigail Surdoval

About the author

Abigail Surdoval is Dedrone’s Public Sector Sales Lead, where she supports correctional facilities and local governments to prevent drone incursions and protect their operations against unwanted airspace activity.

Abigail Surdoval


Originally published Oct 22, 2020, updated May 22, 2024