Gov. Larry Hogan wants to spend $1 million to install drone detection technology over two high-security Maryland prisons, the latest attempt to combat plots to airdrop contraband, which has become a nationwide problem.
Hogan's budget proposes installing the technology at prison complexes in Jessup and Cumberland. It comes after an August incident in which authorities caught two men parked outside the Western Maryland prison with a drone and a car full of drugs, pornography, tobacco and a cellphone.
The pair also had a gun, which was too heavy for the drone to carry. Authorities charged the two men, along with an inmate at the complex, with multiple gun and drug offenses.
Stephen T. Moyer, secretary of public safety and correctional services, said a tip allowed authorities to catch the men at the gate — but prison systems across the country worry about contraband being ferried in by drones.
In an interview, Moyer declined to describe exactly how the technology would work, but emphasized it would only be used to detect drones, not to ground them.
The second of three men charged in the Cumberland case accepted a plea deal Feb. 4. Another was convicted of 31 felony and misdemeanor counts in January, and a third is scheduled to go to trial on March 16, according to the Associated Press.
Last year, authorities caught drones carrying contraband into at least six prisons across the country.
Officials in Ohio found drones outside three prisons. Another drone carrying marijuana and a cellphone charger crashed outside a South Carolina prison in July. In October, a drone carrying contraband crashed into the Oklahoma State Penitentiary.
Although drones are subject to increased scrutiny, they remain largely unregulated. Federal authorities warned recreational drone users this month not to fly one within 32 miles of the Super Bowl in a comical "keep your drones at home" commercial.
Moyer said in August that his "biggest fear" is that someone would use a larger drone to drop a gun into a Maryland prison.