The British government has suggested that eagles could be used to take down drones used by criminal gangs to smuggle drugs, mobile phones and other contraband into prions.
Speaking during Justice Questions in the House of Commons this week, Prisons Minister Sam Gyimah said the increasing use of drones to smuggle goods into jails had been a “game changer”, and that officials are considering ways to stop them.
Police in the Netherlands are already using birds of prey to intercept unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) after successful testing earlier this year. Dutch officers now deploy the birds whenever a drone poses a threat to the public. The Metropolitan Police has already sent a chief inspector to the Netherlands to learn more about the use of eagles to bring down drones.
“The new threat by drones is a game changer, not just for prisons but other parts of government,” Gyimah said.
“That is why I’m working with ministers across the government to engage with drone manufacturers to find a solution to this problem.
“I’m keeping a close eye on what is happening internationally, particularly in Holland where they are using eagles to stop drones, and I’m sure we will find a solution in the UK which will take off.”
According to the latest figures, 33 incidents of drones being discovered either in or around prisons were recorded in England and Wales last year, compared with just two in 2014. Drugs, USB sticks and miniature mobile phones were among the items criminals attempted to smuggle into jails using drones last year.
In July, a Kent man became the first person in the UK to be jailed for trying to smuggle items including drugs and tobacco into a prison using a drone. Daniel Kelly was jailed for 14 months at Maidstone Crown Court in Kent after admitting attempting to fly a package into HMP Swaleside on the Isle of Sheppey.
Gyimah’s suggestion came just days before UK Justice Secretary Liz Truss announced that UK prisons are to get the “biggest overhaul in a generation”, in which no-fly zones will be implemented around jails to help stop drones. Truss also revealed plans to recruit 2,500 extra jail officers in the wake of growing concerns the Prison Service is under increasing pressure following staff cuts, a rise in the use of so-called legal highs among inmates and escalating violence.
“These extra officers and new safety measures will help us crack down on the toxic cocktail of drugs, drones and mobile phones that are flooding our prisons, imperilling the safety of staff and offenders and thwarting reform,” Truss said.