back to article Flying drug mule crashes in Manchester prison

A quadcopter carrying drugs and mobile phones crashed in a yard of Manchester's Strangeways prison last Friday, and while residents were deprived of that particular cargo, a former inmate claims cases of airborne contraband delivery are "rife". According to the Manchester Evening News, a Prison Service spokesperson said: "A …

  1. hplasm


    It's time for a bit of chickenwire over the clink?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Perhaps-

      Exactly! A place like Strangeways is almost purpose built to string some netting across the open areas, roof-top to roof-top. Very little cost for a fairly large payback in smuggling reductions. Maybe it could come from the Police Crime Prevention budget if the prisons can't afford it.

    2. NoneSuch Silver badge

      Re: Perhaps-

      Chicken wire and cell jammers.

      1. mi1400

        Re: Perhaps-

        Leave all jammers and planx aside ... we all know these drones are not so silent... just put a WWI/WWII type listener/guy in control room with 3-4 sensitive mics one on each corner of prison all 4 connected to amplifier with AVL (sony term for auto volume leveler).

  2. Anonymous Coward


    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: Easy

      That was going to be my call on the subject.

      Downsize the armament, bit of tweaking to the targeting discrimination and Bob's yer uncle. Dead drone automagically, 24x7. Never misses, never falls asleep on the job.

      1. Khaptain Silver badge

        Re: Easy

        All that it would take would be to point the cannon "towards the exercise yard/cell blocks" and explain that the next drone that comes over-head will automatically initiate the Phalanx..

    2. JeevesMkII

      Re: Easy

      But if you let its radar lock on to flying objects the size of drones, it'd be raining pigeon corpses in the yard 24/7.

      1. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: Easy

        "But if you let its radar lock on to flying objects the size of drones, it'd be raining pigeon corpses in the yard 24/7."

        I don't see a downside to this. Damn feathered rats...

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Glyn Travis, of the Prison Officers’ Association, confirmed the economics of the flying service. He said: "Technology like drones allows criminals to drop contraband virtually onto a pedestal. A drone might cost £300 or £400 but there’s big money to be made. If it breaks, that's just short change."

    What's more, they are seriously undercutting the prison officers' prices.

  4. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Open a window?

    So the cells have windows that can be opened enough to bring a drone inside? Or, to put it another way, big enough for a con to climb out of? What happened to the good old days when they had bars on the windows?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Open a window?

      So the cells have windows that can be opened enough to bring a drone inside? Or, to put it another way, big enough for a con to climb out of?

      Wait. there are man-sized drones available now? I was assuming they just land the drone on the window ledge and the con pulls it through, so the window only needs to open a few inches, but ICBR.

    2. WraithCadmus

      Re: Open a window?

      I'm guessing they just do the whole operation with arms out the window, it's just a case of 'tear off packet, hurl the other bit'.

      Have an upvote though for making me think of the inmates stood in front of huge gaps and desperately flailing their arms to get the drone.

  5. Rainman

    When the Chinese government wanted to stop drones flying over Beijing they simply made the manufacturers (DJI, etc) put "no fly zones" into their firmware updates. Of course, you could still avoid the limitation by just not updating the firmware but the way DJI seem to have addressed this is that new products which link into their flight computers need the newer firmware to function. Also, you could end up with a loads of NFZ data. Half the reason that multicopters are popular now is because the GPS guidance and stability systems make the systems as easy to fly as playing a computer game. Systems without the stability and guidance aids would still be able to function but the level of skill required is exponentially greater.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Firmware update

      Do these things refuse to fly without a GPS signal?

      If yes, then you can't fly them indoors or in a cave, which is a shame.

      If no, then presumably you can circumvent any "no-fly" zone by disabling the GPS, either by attaching a GPS jammer, or by shielding an antenna, or by cutting a wire.

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Firmware update

        GPS is part of the navigation system. If there's no signal you have to fly it yourself, either by direct visual contact or by using a video link from an onboard camera.

  6. Velv
    Big Brother

    Clearly we need a law banning the ownership of flying devices except under strict license from the Government. All existing devices must be registered, and the license must be produced for all new acquisitions.


    Just wondering when this will be proposed in Parliament. I'm predicting before the end of 2016.

    1. Rainman

      We already have an organisation which administers accreditation and licensing to fly this type of kit. It's called the British Model Flying Association, which is actually part of the Civil Aviation Authority. The BMFA needs some teeth, however anyone can just go down to Maplin and buy a ready-to-fly system off the shelf and it's completely legal to fly one in your back garden or on private property where permission has been granted without any kind of license or insurance. The restriction needs to be enforced upon suppliers selling to people without a license or insurance, thus making the sales traceable. The trouble is that everyone sells this kit now - it's no longer the preserve of your friendly local model shop.

      However, given all that I've said, there is nothing to stop you buying all your own non-drone-specific components and creating one from scratch based on the open source Arduino based Arducopter software. Not being able to readily buy an off the peg ready-to-fly system might only delay you getting something in the air by no more than a couple of days.

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        The restriction needs to be enforced upon suppliers selling to people without a license or insurance

        Because, of course, this sort of restriction works so well with criminals and guns, which is why there are no shootings in America.

    2. Martin Budden Bronze badge


      The "Knee" part of that phrase is redundant.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Monofilamanent mesh

    Doesn't even need to be particularly fine, half meter squares would be a bugger to see and navigate through, especially if they move in the down draught. Couple of layers of that with central motion/displacement detector (AKA the spider) and it would be time consuming to make something to cut and then get through the layers.

    1. beast666

      Re: Monofilamanent mesh

      Why don't they just acquire a humble garden spider then accidentally expose it to a massive dose of funky gamma rays?

      When it grows to about 20 foot let it spin a web over the prison. It gets to keep the drugs. Job done!

      What could possibly go wrong?

      1. Stevie Silver badge

        Re: Monofilamanent mesh

        A plan with no downside if all inmates are forced to sign a waiver concerning being eaten by giant mutant spiders.

        This could be in the fine print of a paper that reads "Sign at the bottom if you would prefer to serve out your sentence in a domestic prison as opposed to the covert facility on an island in the South Atlantic reserved for terrorists and enemy secret agents, to which food can only be delivered six months in any year".

        Those who don't sign can be sent to the island in the South Atlantic where the only drones flying are of the sort that were sent to get Jeremy Renner.

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Re: Monofilamanent mesh

          Hmm.. I wonder if Elba is still available?

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

  8. Benchops

    Drone sniper

    on the big red brick ventilation tower. Failing that at the top of the Boddingtons chimney next door.

    1. Roger Greenwood

      Re: Drone sniper

      Better still make the gun controllable from the internet - many folk would pay good money to have access to a sport like that. After all, what could possibly go wrong?

  9. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

    I dont think all you net suggesters have thought about the magnitude of area to be covered

    1. CraPo

      3.23 ha (7.9738 football pitches/ 1.5546 μ-Wales) according to a quick Google maps polygoning.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It's a good size area, but each gobshite in there is costing us £100k a year to feed. There are resources to handle it and they shouldn't be allowed to have it all their way.

  10. Bob Dole (tm)

    Maybe, the plods are going about this the wrong way.

    Just thinking out loud so to speak. But what if the prison services simply don't enforce this. What if they just let the helicopters in?

    Bear with me: If the prisons conducted regular drug testing and any failure cause you to be in solitary confinement or even extend your sentence for a year then wouldn't the criminals eventually get the idea that perhaps they just shouldn't do drugs?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Maybe, the plods are going about this the wrong way.

      The prisons are full. We can't afford to lengthen sentences. We can't afford solitary confinement.

      Legalising drugs, on the other hand, that might be a real solution...

      Though not to the problem (if it exists) of weapons being smuggled into prisons with drones.

      1. elawyn

        Re: Maybe, the plods are going about this the wrong way.

        prisons might be full, but Australia isn't.

        1. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

          Re: Maybe, the plods are going about this the wrong way.

          You mean they will give me a holiday in the sun for the price of a hit. Is that hemp or something stronger?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Maybe, the plods are going about this the wrong way.

      Drugs like heroin only stay in the body for about 48hrs iirc and word travels fast in prisons, meaning it's probably quite difficult to catch all but the most heavily addicted.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Maybe, the plods are going about this the wrong way.

      Brick up the cell doors and remove the roof. Those that want to be serviced by UAV from outside can be entirely looked after by them. In a pool of their own excrement. Would be good business for the van-pilots.

  11. Scott Broukell

    Is that cockeney rhymin' slang for . . . .

    Here!, got any drones? (drugs and fones)

  12. IPCurious

    We need antidrone drones. They need to be fast and clever, chase and catch the intruder in seconds, set it down safely, all automated, no-human-involved. There's an enormous market - or there will be, after the first terrorist quadcopter bomb. Why isn't this a major research project right now?

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge

      Robot wars, the sequel

      And with debris raining on whoever happens to be underneath.

    2. Richard Ball

      Don't need a bomb, just need to be programmed to home in on jet engine intakes.

    3. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      There's an enormous market - or there will be, after the first terrorist quadcopter bomb

      This is the sort of thing that the well respected security guru Bruce Schneier refers to as a 'movie plot threat' - improbable and overly specific to defend against, but scary sounding.

  13. M7S

    Official phrasing

    "a drone was successfully intercepted" according to HMP.

    "it crashed and was found" according to the press.

    If the press are correct, I hope that this is not the kind of "successful interception" relied on by other government services in these days of limited resources, for example I'd hate to think that a successful interception of an enemy aircraft by the RAF relied entirely on johnny foreigner being a poor pilot and steering into the ground for no good reason.

    1. Oldgroaner

      Re: Official phrasing

      Clearly a job for Biggles in his trusty biplane.

      1. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Re: Official phrasing

        "Clearly a job for Biggles in his trusty biplane."

        Or Worrals if he's too busy...

    2. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Official phrasing

      It crashed and the prison staff got to it before the prisoners. Therefore it was intercepted.

      Intercept is not a special word, you can have your post intercepted.

  14. Stevie Silver badge


    In-Basket-type gridwork over the outside windows? Not only a criss-cross of metal but spaced an arms length out? Electrified for the benefit of questing fingers?

    Perhaps countering high tech with low tech is the way to go.

    Bounty on the pilots?

  15. Michael Habel Silver badge

    Considering for the moment...

    That most crims are or were poor when they got banged up. Just how are the able to afford their purloined goodies? Wonga Loans?!

  16. Sceptic Tank

    Ordering a Chinese

    Good grief! Are there no honourable people in these prisons anymore? But how big are the openings if you can pull a drone through there?

    The president of this country in the south may be interested to know that he can have stuff delivered to his cell because I think he'll be going straight to prison when his term ends.

    "It's like ordering a Chinese." ...... is there ANYTHING one cannot order over the 'net anymore?

  17. ShadowDragon8685

    Don't they have some really honking huge and strong nets nowadays, for things like suicide netting and the like?

    Wouldn't the same stuff work in situations like this?

  18. ravenviz

    £800 for a mobile phone?

    Crikey, I need a career change to be able to afford that!

    Anyone want to buy an inflatable sex doll (filled with propane)?

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