Can You Fly a Drone Over a Prison? ANSWERED!

If you are a drone enthusiast, and you happen to stay near a prison, you might be wondering if you are allowed to fly over it! Well, I did some research, and here is what I found.

The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) has prohibited the use of drones over prisons as they can be used to drop drugs, weapons, or any other contraband to inmates within the prison. This concern has become a reality in several situations where inmates have received external deliveries via drone.

Keep reading to find out why flying over prisons is illegal, and the consequences if you do decide to take a risk, and fly a drone over a prison.

Why Flying a Drone Over a Prison Illegal?

In 2015 the Federal Aviation Administration prohibited the use of drones over federal prisons. This was bound to happen at some point since drones started to become free for use by the general public.

Prison officials have always been worried that people would use remote-controlled aircraft over prison yards to drop drugs, weapons, and other contraband to inmates in the prison yards.

Drones can be used for many situations, from being used by the average person as a hobby or photography, all the way to being used by the military where manned flight is considered too risky or difficult.

However, drones also pose many threats as they are mostly flying machines and can be controlled from any location. This is why drones can be used for both good things and bad things.

Drones can be used by terrorists to cause harm to many United States citizens and attack federal facilities. As I mentioned earlier, criminals have used drones to drop drugs and weapons.

There have been a few incidents involving drones at prisons. In 2017 an inmate in South Carolina cut his way through the prison fence using wire cutters that prison officials suspect was delivered to the prison using a drone.

The inmate in question was only captured 1,200 miles away in Texas!

In the same year, in Arizona, a drone carrying drugs and cellphones crashed into a section of the prison yard that is only accessible to correction officers and other prison officials.

Back in 2015, a drone dropped marijuana and heroin to an inmate in an Ohio prison. This then caused a huge fight amongst inmates at the prison.

These are just a few of the incidents that have occurred in prisons around the United States over the years. This is why the FAA had to take action and even releasing a statement, which is listed below.

Operators who violate the flight restrictions may be subject to enforcement action, including potential civil penalties and criminal charges.

Statement by the FAA
Drone dropping a cellphone to an inmate in and Ohio prison.

What Happens If You Operate a Drone Over a Prison?

It is illegal for anyone to fly a drone near correctional facilities. This includes state prisons, county, and municipal jails, as well as private jails.

Anyone who goes against this rule can be charged with anything from a class A misdemeanor to a class D felony.

You might be wondering why there is such a big difference in the seriousness of the charges. Well, the difference with the charges depends on the purpose of the drone when you were breaking the law.

If you are using a drone unknowingly near a correctional facility, it will be considered a misdemeanor offense.

However, if you are flying a drone near a correctional facility within the intention to deliver weapons, facilitating an escape, or delivering a controlled substance, you can be charged with a felony.

These rules will not punish people who unknowingly fly a drone near or inside a correctional facility’s airspace.

If a 16-year-old kid happens to accidentally fly a drone near or over a prison while flying his or her drone, then they obviously will not be charged with a misdemeanor!

However, if an adult had to knowingly fly over a correctional facility, they may be charged with a misdemeanor offense, and depending on what the drone was carrying, they may be charged with a felony.

This rule is not meant to discourage people who might live near a prison from flying drones, but its main focus is to keep everyone safe and keep unwanted items out of prisons.

How Do Prisons Detect Drones In The Area?

Smugglers and other criminals have used many methods over the years to try and smuggle drugs, tobacco, cellphones, and other contraband into prisons.

The latest method is by using quadcopters to hover over the prison with contraband attached to them and release them into the prison yards.

This is why it is now illegal to fly drones near a prison, but just because it is illegal to fly a drone over a prison, that does not mean that criminals will stop trying to fly over them and drop contraband!

This is why prison officials have had to find ways to combat drones to keep them away from the prison or find the people flying the drones before they can drop the contraband.

One way in which they are combating drones is by using anti-drone technology that is being developed by many companies out there. The prisons have technology that is able to detect drones using techniques like Radio Frequency (RF) detection.

This method uses radar to detect the radio frequencies that are transmitted by the drone in order to communicate with the controller. Using this method allows prison officials to detect drones early before they are able to enter prison yards, and hopefully stop them.

Prison officials then try to disable the drones by using methods such as RF Jamming, GNSS Jamming, Spoofing, Laser, nets, or projectiles.

How Do Prisons Stop Drones?

Drone Catcher

The DroneCatcher is a funny piece of anti-drone tech because it is a drone itself! It is a multi-copter designed by Delft Dynamics, which is fitted with a net gun.

The drone has many onboard sensors that detect drones from the air. Once a drone has been located, the net gun locks on to the target.

The pilot can then shoot a net at the drone flying over the prison. When the intruding drone has been captured, DroneCatcher carries the drone using a cable and delivers it to the officials.


Australian company DroneShield is responsible for developing this piece of anti-drone technology. This technology jams the signal between the drone flying over the prison and the drone pilot flying the drone wherever they may be.

It is called the DroneGun due to the fact that it is shaped like a rifle, and it uses radiofrequency, and GPS jamming, which when aimed at the drone in question, disables it.

This system can break the link, which can activate the “fail-safe” to send the drone home. The technology covers a 0.5 miles radius.

Sky Fence System

This system was developed especially to improve the security in prisons against drones. This system uses a number of signal disruptors, designed to jam the flight control signal of a drone.

This prevents the drone from flying over the prison by using multiple low power radio transmitters located all around the perimeter of the prison.

When they are activated they interfere with the radio transmissions of a drone, which prevents the pilot from maintaining that control over the drone.

The system is fully programmable, which means prison officials can activate the system at any time, automatically by either allowing activation through sensors or manually.

There are many more anti-drone technologies made by companies all over the world.

There are also some low budget technologies that prison officials have tried, such as, barbed wire and nets on the perimeter fence which is not easy to see from a drone camera, and this causes drone pilots to crash into them.

Authorities have even attempted to use birds of prey as a low budget option of capturing drones!

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