Justice Department Wants Anti-Drone Systems for Prisons

Noah Berger/AP File Photo

Unmanned air vehicles "have presented a new and evolving threat" for federal prison facilities.

The Department of Justice wants to crack down on drones illegally delivering contraband to federal inmates. 

The Federal Bureau of Prisons is looking for information about technology that could detect unmanned air vehicles, track them, and bring down or disable them.

In its Request for Information, BOP's Office of Security and Technology noted that drones "have presented a new and evolving threat." For instance, small machines weighing less than a pound could take aerial photographs of prison facilities, and larger ones could carry at least 20 pounds of contraband, according to the notice. 

In August, two men near a Maryland state prison tried to use a drone to deliver drugs and pornography to a prisoner, The Washington Post reported. Similar incidents have been recorded in Ohio and South Carolina. 

BOP is specifically interested in fully integrated systems that can do the detection, tracking, identification and neutralization of unmanned air vehicles, according to the RFI. 

Respondents are asked to consider the environment around federal prison facilities -- their security system may need to operate in a mixed-use airspace through which both "friendly" and "threat" drones could pass, the RFI said. And the unmanned vehicles themselves could be commercially available or custom made, from materials such as carbon fiber or high-density plastic, among several other variables the system must take into account.  

BOP is attempting to protect at least 122 institutions in the United States, especially because about 81 percent of the 205,000 federal offenders in its custody live in BOP facilities, according to the RFI.