A man will face court next week after a drone quadcopter was allegedly used to try to smuggle drugs into a Melbourne prison.
Police were called to reports of a drone hovering over the Metropolitan Remand Centre in Ravenhall about 4.30pm on Sunday.
Officers found a man and woman in a car nearby with what is believed to be a four-engined drone and a small quantity of drugs.
A 28-year-old Lalor man has been charged with possessing a drug of dependence and attempting to commit an indictable offence.
He has been bailed to appear in Melbourne magistrates court next Monday.
David McCauley, acting industrial officer for the prison officer’s vocational branch of the Public Service Association, said this was just the latest in a long lines of method for getting drugs over walls.
“At the end of the day if they can throw tennis balls over the wall with drugs in them, and with staffing levels the way they are, it’s going to be very difficult to stop these drones,” he said.
The use of drones, or UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) is regulated by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority. The rules require that uncertified operators maintain a distance of 30m between the drone and other people.
A spokesman for the Civil Aviation Safety Authority said it was unclear as to whether the drone at Ravenhall might have contravened these rules.
“If we were to get evidence of that we could look at whether an infringement notice could be issued, however at this point we’ve got no knowledge of where the machine flew in regards to people,” he said.
A recent parliamentary roundtable on drones and privacy heard from a number of expert witnesses about the proliferation of drones in Australia.
Brad Mason, secretary of the Australian Certified UAV Operators Association, told the committee:
“From our perspective, what we are seeing is that there is a lot of illegal and unauthorised use of UAVs. We understand that the regulator is doing its best to try and combat that but, unfortunately, as the director mentioned before, they are so easily available and so cheap to buy these days that anybody can buy one and anyone can go out and operate one.
“It is really difficult to regulate, manage and catch those people,” he said.
It’s not the first time remote-control helicopters have been used to smuggle contraband into prisons. In 2013, four people were arrested after a helicopter was used to smuggle tobacco into a prison in the US.
Another drone incident occurred at a Canadian prison when a security alert was set off by a drone. Two years earlier, Russian police reportedly confiscated a remote-controlled helicopter and 700g of heroin, apparently foiling an attempt to deliver the drugs to a prison inmate. In 2009, a remote-controlled helicopter was spotted carrying a package over the walls of a UK prison.