Gangs & Drugs
Throughout the past few years gangs have been using drones in order to smuggle drugs into prisons across England.
West Midlands police brought down a large prison drone smuggling gang comprised of 15 people who made an estimated minimum of 55 drone drops into prisons across the Midlands. These drone drops contained various drugs and had an estimated value of £550,000. The group were classed as an Organised Crime Gang and it was discovered that over the course of 14 months, they flew almost 2.5kg of various narcotics over prison walls.
During the investigation, the police force recovered & seized 11 drones that had been crashed or were being positioned to take-off. With these recovered drones, drone forensics methods can be used to gain information such as flight paths, which can be vital to finding the pilot of the drone. Drone forensics methods are designed around being forensically sound in order for any recovered data to be as reliable as possible.
This particular case was described by police as the biggest drone smuggling racket into prisons ever seen in the UK.
In 2018, several residents of a Cambridgeshire village spotted a drone flying over the village for 4 consecutive days, just days later a home in the village was raided. Local residents believed that the drone was directly related to the home being raided in the village. If the drone had been captured, then by using drone forensics it may have been possible to recover the exact flight path of the drone.
The local police disclosed that they had received several calls from residents over the 4 days in question, reporting that a drone had been spotted flying over the village and expressing their concerns that it may be being used to plan burglaries by checking out houses it was flying above. The police started receiving calls on the Monday 11th June, and the raid took place on the Thursday of the same week, 14th June.
With a freedom of information request, local residents learned that the number of drone related crimes reported to the police had drastically increased in recent years. The majority of reports to the police were made in regards to safety concerns, with some just saying that they were causing a nuisance. If captured, then drone forensics techniques can be used to recover various pieces of data from the drone’s on board computer. Drone forensics can often recover as much as images and video.
Phones, Knives & Prisons
Bedford Prison encountered a drone related incident back in 2015, in which a drone that was intending to deliver several mobile phones, screw drivers and a knife, crashed into a fence and was spotted by a member of staff. This was one of the first incidents of it’s kind in the UK, the Ministry of Justice at the time said that it was not aware of another incident like this.
The drone crash landed into razor wire that was on top of the prison walls, it was here that the guards spotted it and quickly retrieved the aircraft. If investigators had had the ability to apply drone forensics to the seized drone, they may have had the extra help needed, such as knowing where the drone took off from, which could have been key to finding the perpetrators.
This event alerted prison’s across the UK to the ever increasing amount of crimes committed using drones, and to other groups attempting to use drones to smuggle items into prisons. It was also one of the first events to highlight the kinds of ways in which drones can be misused, highlighting the importance of services like drone forensics.