Prison foils bid to smuggle in drugs by drone chopper
A SOPHISTICATED plan to smuggle drugs into Wheatfield Prison using a state-of-the-art remote-controlled helicopter has been foiled by eagle-eyed wardens.
An expensive 'quadcopter' device, which had a video camera mounted to it so its operator could see where it was going, was flown into the prison yard in west Dublin.
But when the mini-aircraft was spotted by staff, a gang of inmates ran to it and took the drugs away.
Wardens – in trying to catch the drone in flight – unsettled its sensitive balance and caused it to crash after it hit a wire over the yard.
The prisoners and ringleader have now been segregated and disciplined.
It is suspected one of them swallowed the drugs so they will be monitored until they pass through his system.
The incident happened at around 11am on Tuesday morning when the device, called a quadcopter because it has four rotors, was being landed in the yard.
After the drugs were removed the drone knocked against a wire which is in place over the yard to prevent real helicopters from landing, and crashed to the ground.
These wires are placed across all prison yards to prevent attempts to spring criminals from prison yards in a similar way to the escape of three prisoners from Mountjoy in 1973.
A group of prisoners were waiting for the battery-powered chopper when it arrived.
When it was inspected by gardai the chopper was found to have had the expensive video camera attached.
These mini-video cameras are used by sports enthusiasts to record action because they are tough and durable.
The camera was also found to contain a digital SD memory card which, according to sources, has data on it that will significantly speed up the investigation as to who was operating the device by remote control from outside the prison.
"This goes to show the lengths people will go to to get drugs into prisons now that other methods have failed," said a source.
"Netting is used in most prisons to stop drugs being thrown over the walls but this new trick will certainly give the prison authorities something to think about.
"It can't be ruled out that these drone devices have not been successfully used to get drugs in before."
Industry sources say the price of the quadcopter, camera, and remote-control unit would cost in the region of €1,100 for the base models.
The remains of the quad-copter have been handed to gardai who are investigating the matter.
The Prison Service said it identified the gang involved in the incident using CCTV and has isolated them until the drugs are passed naturally.