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Prison ‘shield’

A Channel Island prison has become the first to use a new product designed to stop drones smuggling contraband such as drugs or weapons over perimeter walls. A group of British companies has worked together to install perimeter protection at Les Nicolles Prison on Guernsey, including the new “Sky Fence”.

It creates a 600m virtual ‘shield’ around the prison to detect remote-controlled drones then uses a series of ‘disruptors’ – sensors to jam the drone’s computer – to block its frequency and control protocols and divert it back to where it came from.

As has been well documented, drones have become a security problem for Britain’s prisons as used to smuggle in valuables such as mobile phones.

Les Nicolles has ordered around 20 disruptors on the perimeter fence line and within the jail. Sky Fence is the creation of British companies Drone Defence and Eclipse Digital Solutions; steel fencing manufacturer Zaun and Coventry-based PIDs (passive infra-red detection) product company Harper Chalice have also supplied product installed by UK prison perimeters installer Binns Fencing.

Prisoner governor David Matthews said: “This is the first time this technology has been used in any prison anywhere in the world. I would like to see it adopted in other UK prisons because it has become a significant problem. This is about prevention.”

Nottingham-based company Drone Defence has worked on the idea in the past year. Company founder and CEO Richard Gill said: “It disrupts the control network between the flyer and the drone. The drone then activates return to home mode and it will then fly back to the position where it had signal with its flyer. Someone described it as the final piece in a prison’s security puzzle. I think it could have a significant worldwide impact.”

Eclipse managing director Alan Drinkwater said they had modified existing technology to create Sky Fence. The new system in Guernsey is part of a £1.7m security upgrade that also includes new cameras, new fencing and sensors, a new lighting system and new alarms. A multi-use games area for prisoners has also been set out within the walls.

About Les Nicolles

A mixed category prison which holds men and women, young offenders and adults, it has a capacity of 139. It opened in 1989 and its population has fallen to an all-time low in recent years. It is independent of the UK mainland prison and justice system and is run by the State of Guernsey.

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