Earlier this year, Chinese authorities granted a license to Ele.me, one of the country’s biggest food delivery platforms, giving it the official OK to start making deliveries by drone. Although that’s an exciting step, those takeout orders won’t be completely automated: a human delivery person will take the food to a ‘drone hub’ where it will be attached to the miniature aircraft, then flown to a second hub, where a second delivery person will drive it to its final destination, the old-fashioned way.
That’s still complicated, especially compared to the system at one Irish prison. According to Dublin Live, an unidentified person flew an order—or several orders—of Chinese food into the medium-security Wheatfield Prison. The drone came and went without being detected by authorities (NICE JOB, GUYS!) but apparently the guards got suspicious when they found several empty containers in the trash.
“There’s no other conceivable way a Chinese takeaway could get into the prison other than by a drone,” an unnamed prison source told the outlet. “Prison staff were left scratching their heads as to how it got there and a drone was the only possible explanation. It goes to show inmates will go to great lengths to get what they want.”
In addition to Chinese food, the source said that drugs are regularly dropped into the prison by drone, too. “There’s a running joke it’s like dial-a-drug service as you just get word of what you want, cocaine, spice or whatever, and it’s delivered in by a drone,” he or she said. (Dude, stop talking).
A spokesperson for the Irish Prison Service told Dublin Live that he had not heard about the food delivery or any similar incidents, and that the Wheatfield staff had already taken a number of steps to prevent Kung Pao chicken (and cocaine or whatever) from being dropped into the rec yard.
“Existing measures include regular patrols by staff, monitoring of cameras, exercise yards have netting fitted to prevent contraband being dropped or thrown into that area,” he said. “In addition the installation of infrared and motion sensor cameras will commence shortly.”
We’d normally be skeptical about a story that relied on an unnamed source who may have been compensated with, like, a handful of takeout coupons, except Wheatfield has had a previous drone incident. In June 2014, someone tried to lower a drug-carrying drone into the exercise yard, but it hit one of the wires that prevent a full-size helicopter from landing within the prison’s walls. It crashed to the ground—but that didn’t stop the inmates from scrambling for the package it dropped.
The prisoners who either ate or otherwise concealed the drugs were placed in solitary confinement until, uh, their descending colons did their jobs. “It’s not pleasant to say, but they either swallow the stuff wrapped in plastic and get it back when it comes out the other end, or they stuff it up the other end in the first place,” a prison source told the Irish Times.
Last spring, Les Nicolles Prison on the island of Guernsey became the world’s first to put a drone-disrupting fence around its perimeter. The ‘Sky Fence’ is designed to stop drones by jamming their computers and sending them back to whoever’s flying them. “The operator's video screen will go black and they will lose control,” Drone Defence CEO Richard Gill told Engadget. “Drones made in the last few years are all designed to return to the last point at which they were under control if the signal is lost. It won't bring the drone down because if it did and it hit someone or caused damage that would create issues of liability.”
So if you know an Irish inmate who craves takeout, you’d better start working on your throwing arm. That might be the only way those egg rolls will clear the fence.