Drone detection in prisons

April 12, 2024

The illegal use of drones is becoming an increasing challenge, especially when it comes to smuggling contraband into prisons and unauthorised intrusions into sensitive locations. Sound Event Detector (SED) can be a key tool to identify these unwanted activities and protect affected areas.

Contraband isgoods on which duty or tax has not been paid or which are not authorized for manufacture, possession, export or import. In a narrower sense, it refers to smuggled goods.


Traditionally, smuggling was done through corrupt prison staff who bought goods from the outside and charged money for things like cell phones, cigarettes, marijuana and alcohol to be sold on the inside. Smartphones could sell for thousands of dollars and packs of cigarettes for over a hundred dollars. Prisoners now use the technology without the need for a middleman, receiving deliveries directly from outside from drones that drop off cargo in prison yards. (Source: forbes.com)


Last fall, a drone dropped a batch of toxic drugs containing fentanyl into the BC prison. One inmate died and nine others who overdosed were taken to the emergency room, according to the Union for Canadian Correctional Officers (UCCO). Another 39 required medical intervention. Drones also deliver stacks of steroids, cell phones and weapons such as ceramic knives and hacksaw blades, says John Randle, UCCO regional president for B.C. (Source: cbca.ca)


“It is clear that criminals are now using drones to try to smuggle dangerous drugs and contraband into the prison estate. SNP ministers cannot make the same mistakes they made when they dithered and dragged their feet on our demands to stop the postal drug trade.” (Source: dailyrecord.co.uk)


If the record is impressive, the method is no exception. In recent months, drone deliveries have taken place in the prisons of Gradignan (Gironde), Nîmes, Beauvais, Strasbourg, Roanne (Loire), Ploemeur (Morbihan)… But also Perpignan and Lyon. The items delivered are varied: phones, SIM cards, cocaine, bladed weapons, but above all cannabis resin. (Source: lemonde.fr)


Even small drones can carry a payload of several kilograms, allowing them to carry other dangerous items such as small arms. Saarinen says that while drones – which are small and nearly silent – could be shot down with firearms, water cannons or nets, organizing a task force to monitor the skies would require a large amount of resources. (Source: yle.fi)

Prisons are facing a growing problem of smuggling contraband into prisons via unmanned aerial vehicles (drones). This dangerous trend threatens the safety of inmates and staff and reduces the effectiveness of correctional and rehabilitation programs.

One of the main measures to address this problem is the implementation of the Sound Event Detector (SED), which is able to identify the characteristic sounds of drones used to smuggle drugs into prisons.

Thanks to SED detectors, prison security forces will be informed in time of possible drug smuggling attempts and will thus be able to take preventive measures.

▶️ Detect and identify the sounds of drones used to smuggle contraband into the prison.

▶️ Provide prison security with early warning of possible attempts to smuggle contraband.

▶️ Minimize the smuggling of contraband into the prison, thereby improving the safety of inmates and staff.

Identification of key audio eventsThe different types of drones used to smuggle contraband into prisons were analysed and the characteristic sounds made by these drones were identified.
Data collection and annotationTo train the SED detector, a collection of audio data containing sounds of drones used for smuggling contraband was made. The data was subsequently annotated by experts.
SED model trainingA SED model was selected and implemented and trained on the annotated data. The model was optimized to recognize specific audio events associated with contraband smuggling drones.
Integration with the prison security systemThe SED detector was integrated with the prison’s security system, enabling early warning of possible attempts to smuggle contraband.
Implementation of SED detectors in prisons.

SED’s solution to detect audio events to protect prisons from contraband smuggling via drones has proven to be an effective tool that is currently being tested in practice. It will lead to improved security for prisoners and staff. The SED detector allows for early identification and response to possible smuggling attempts and contributes to strengthening the security measures of the prison.

SED save the average response time of rescue services from 7 minutes to less than 5 seconds. Helps to safe more lives.

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