A Phantom drone by DJI company, equipped with a camera, flies during the 4th Intergalactic Meeting of Phantom's Pilots (MIPP) in an open secure area in the Bois de Boulogne, western Paris, March 16, 2014. Reuters/Charles Platiau

A melee happened last week at the Mansfield Correctional Institution in Ohio after prisoners fought one another to get hold of 7 ounces of heroin, marijuana and tobacco dropped by a drone into the prison yard.

CSMonitor reported on Tuesday that experts have noted the increase in use of drones – which could be bought for only $400 on Amazon – to smuggle weapons, mobile phones and drugs into prisons. They blame this on the cheaper prices of drones which could hike sales of drones in 2015 to one million units.

To address the problems with drones being used to smuggle contraband items into prisons, some facilities list their addresses in No Fly Zone. It is a Web site where companies, individuals and organisations could list their locations in a database. Being on the list, which is given to drone makers, means drones cannot fly overhead these addresses because the manufacturer had programmed their drones not to fly over these locations.

Another protection for prisons is Drone Shield, a drone detection device that intercepts the package before it reaches its destination. Brian Hearing, co-inventor of the device, explains that 10 or 100 drones programmed to deliver guns simultaneously to a correctional facility could change “a hostage situation into a full-blown riot with multiple weapons.”

The incident in Ohio is not the first since similar cases have been recorded in Brazil, Ireland, Greece, Russia, Switzerland and Australia. The drone is a change from the use of helicopters as getaway vehicles of prison breakers.

Besides prisons, there are other sensitive sites across the US vulnerable to drone attacks, warns the Department of Homeland Security in a new assessment. The report did not provide a specific site or case in the US but pointed to the use of a drone in Iraq in 2014 to attack an oil refinery.

The report said that there were more than 500 drone encounters in sensitive sites across the US since 2012. Of the number, 218 of the encounters are related to the aviation system or other flying aircraft.

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