Drone Technology for Forensic Investigations Expert Overview

For disputes involving hard-to-reach places, elements of highway engineering, architecture, or construction, or where measuring and mapping is needed, drones can assist in gaining critical data. The Technical Services group at Robson Forensic offers drone services operated by licensed drone operators in compliance with FAA rules and regulations.

The firm utilizes both Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAV) and Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USV), depending on the unique needs of the case.

Forensic Drone Expert Services

Drone Services for a Variety of Case Types

Drones are often utilized to capture still images, video footage, 3D modeling, mapping, and measurements for cases requiring:

  • Building Inspections:
    • Façade Inspection
    • HVAC inspection
    • Roof Inspection
  • Visual Inspections of:
    • Powerlines
    • Cell towers
    • Roadways
    • Large areas and facilities
    • Fire scenes
    • Bridges and infrastructure
    • Underwater topography

UAV Drone

The Unmanned Aerial System (UAV) drone can be used to obtain overhead views of crash sites; inspect powerlines, trees, and building facades; obtain traffic flows; and more.

When easy access is not feasible, the inspection areas are impossible to access safely, or when cost is a concern, a drone can easily be used to gather data. A drone can cover more area than a human inspector while obtaining measurements that are accurate, forensically sound, and repeatable.

3D Site Mapping Capabilities

Performing 3D site mapping and gathering verifiable data allows for further in-depth analysis to be performed. Multiple images can be combined with other photogrammetry and 3D Scan Data to create photographic maps of scenes and allows for topography evaluation.

Topography & Mapping

Multiple images can be combined with other photogrammetry and 3D Scan Data to create photographic maps of scenes, combining a series of aerial images with modeling software allows for topography evaluation and demonstratives.

Demonstrative Video & Photographs

Our drone team can be quickly deployed to an incident site to record current state from a bird’s eye view.

USV Drone

An Unmanned Surface Vehicle / Unmanned Surface Vessel (USV), colloquially called a “drone boat” or “sea drone” is a vessel that operates on the surface of the water without a crew. USVs operate with various levels of autonomy.

They are often used to conduct bathymetric surveys (depth measurements) of underwater terrain of lakes, rivers, drainage basins, swimming pools, and other bodies of water up to depths of 100m.

Use of a USV allows for safe inspection from the shoreline of underwater features 2km away from the operator.

Underwater areas are mapped using an echo sounder and GPS receiver. This data combined with hydrographic software can be used to create 2D and 3D imagery for analysis and demonstrative purposes. In addition to the USVs depth mapping capabilities, it can also calculate tide levels and volumes of river sections, pits, ponds, lakes, and reservoirs.

Like the UAV drone, the USV system and operator can deploy quickly to gather data from an incident scene.

Case Examples

  1. An aerial drone was used to inspect powerlines for arcing over a busy turnpike. The drone allowed for inspection of the powerlines without having to shut down traffic.

    This information was used to show the exact location where contact with the powerline was made and aided experts in a more thorough analysis.
  2. An aerial drone was used to make a demonstrative video to show the trier of fact specific routes that a construction vehicle took through a scene. Both point of view and aerial imagery were provided for the trial.  

    Using the drone footage, our client was able to demonstrate that there were safer routes that could have been taken to prevent the incident.
  3. A building façade was documented prior to construction on an adjacent building. The original condition of the building, in its entirety, was captured quickly and accurately by the drone in photographs and video footage. During construction, the building was damaged, and the drone footage was used to show the prior state.

    The drone footage was able to show the state of the building prior to damage, which was compelling information to have when the owner confronted the neighboring construction site. This enabled a settlement to be reached based on the actual damages incurred.

Using Drone Footage in Legal Disputes

The examples above illustrate only a few of the possible applications of drones towards the resolution of legal disputes and construction damage claims. Whether you need to document the site of the incident, collect data from a vehicle, or test a product or material, the Technical Services group at Robson Forensic can provide a custom forensic solution to fit your needs.

For more information, call 800.813.6736 or submit an inquiry.

Featured Expert

Chad Phillips, Technical Services Expert

Chad Phillips, AP

Technical Services Expert
Chad Phillips is an Aviation and Mechanical expert with over 15 years of professional experience inspecting, maintaining, and repairing helicopters, airport equipment, and a broad range of industrial… read more.

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