In late August, as security staff was leaving Buckingham Correctional Center, they found small white drone sitting on the side of the road with a package attached to it.

They were told by a shift commander to leave it alone since it was outside the prison’s perimeter and called Virginia State Police, who found $500 worth of marijuana, an eight ball of cocaine, a cellphone, three SIM cards and a handcuff key.

That was one of 33 drone sightings near prisons since January 2018, according to Virginia Department of Corrections data obtained by The Virginian-Pilot through the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

Contraband was found only in one case. But drones have been used increasingly to smuggle drugs and other contraband into correctional facilities as the technology becomes more readily available and affordable, said Phil Pitsky, the vice president of U.S. federal operations for Dedrone, a company that sells drone detection software.

Four of the 33 drone sightings were near Buckingham Correctional Center or its neighbour Dillwyn Correctional Center, which are about 90 minutes west of Richmond and together have over 2,000 prisoners.

Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said charges are pending in the August incident — the 14th of the year, and the only one this year or last in which suspected drugs were found.

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