COLUMBIA, SC — A man has been sentenced to 15 years behind bars for trying to use a drone to smuggle contraband into a maximum security South Carolina prison, officials said Tuesday.
Department of Corrections spokeswoman Stephanie Givens told The Associated Press that Brenton Lee Doyle has been sentenced to 10 years for trying to bring contraband into prison and five years for marijuana possession. She said he pleaded guilty in a Lee County court.
In April, officials found a crashed drone in bushes outside the walls of Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville. Officers also found materials that inmates are not supposed to have, including phones, tobacco products, marijuana and synthetic marijuana.
The drone never made it inside the 12-foot-high razor wire fence. At the time, officials said they weren’t sure exactly where the drone would have gone if it made it over the wall.
Corrections officials have long said that the use of banned cellphones behind bars is a security threat to correctional officers and the public. In 2010, then-Corrections Capt. Robert Johnson was shot six times at his Sumter home in a hit police said was orchestrated by an inmate using a cellphone smuggled into prison. Johnson, who worked at Lee, survived and has since retired.
The department has been trying to take measures to stop future drones from infiltrating the state’s correctional facilities. In December, Corrections officials began installing new surveillance towers and thermal imaging cameras to cut down on contraband at Lee.
Officials have said most attempts to throw items over the fence for the inmates occur at night, so the thermal technology cameras should help detect such incidents.
Officials said the April incident was the first known attempt to use a drone to smuggle contraband into the state’s prisons. In 2013, four people in Georgia were accused of using a remote-controlled drone to fly tobacco and cellphones into a state prison there.
As drone technology gets more and more accessible to people from all walks of life, these kinds of attempts to use multicopters for getting things to places that are hard to access will become more and more prevalent. So when a man receives 15 years for using drones to smuggle goods should not come as a surprise and will surely not be that last instance. This of course should not suggest to anyone that drones are mostly used for unlawful purposes. Actually, most multicopters are flown by hobbyists who are law abiding citizens and wish no harm, but want to enjoy having a brand new dimension to photography or just the thrill of flying. After all, having a drone and maybe an FPV goggle set is the cheapest and closest thing to flying a manned aircraft or to what birds can experience naturally.The origin of mankind’s desire to fly is lost in the distant past and true controlled flight only became reality in the past century.