Drones are like many other items used by people, in that the use they are put to determines if they are considered a help or a hindrance. After several recent incidents involving drones used to deliver unauthorized items to prison inmates, legislators in South Carolina passed a ban against private drones flying over any detention or prison facilities. Coinciding with this ban, many prisons in South Carolina have instituted the use of sensors to detect the presence of drones over their grounds.


In a new twist on the use of drones, though, the South Carolina Corrections Department is now using drones to monitor inmates at correctional facilities, according to this U.S.News Best States article. Corrections Director Bryan Stirling demonstrated to reporters on Thursday, May 24, how the drones are used to monitor both the prison itself and the areas outside, in order to prevent contraband from being tossed over the walls. Stirling says that the Department of Corrections has hired two pilots who will travel between 21 prisons in South Carolina and monitor the areas with drones from 400 feet above by using video displays and remote controls.


Stirling said that the Corrections Department has been continuing with this effort for some months now and that the cost to the state is minimal. According to Stirling, South Carolina is the first state to use drones in such a manner, as reported to him by the Association of State Correctional Administrators. During this demonstration for the reporters, the pilots controlled the drone while it hovered several hundred feet above and showed the reporters the detailed and clear images that the drone collected.


These drones use night-vision and sensors for heat detection to monitor areas for the presence of people in certain areas. Along with being used to prevent contraband from entering or leaving the prison, the drones will also monitor for signs of violence in the facilities.