February 26, 2019      

Public safety agencies continue to find some new and unique ways to utilize unmanned aerial systems, aka drones, in both crime scene investigations and on-scene incident monitoring. Two companies in the space provided details of how drones were utilized to defuse a standoff and assist crime scene investigation.

In Campbell, Calif., police used a US-1 drone from startup Impossible Aerospace during a standoff at a Denny’s restaurant on Feb. 8, 2019. Equipped with thermal and optical sensors and its 90-minute battery life, the US-1 provided police with a persistent and accurate aerial view of the perimeter, roof, and exits of the building, which helped lead to a peaceful arrest of a suspect, Impossible Aerospace said.

Impossible Aerospace US-1 Drone

Impossible Aerospace’s US-1 Drone

According to police and SWAT authorities, the US-1 provided a regular perimeter scan and more consistent video footage than the county’s helicopter. “The US-1 confirmed the precision of the SWAT teams’ strategies – which included using tear gas to force the suspect out of hiding, and later using police canine [units] – so the authorities could react and plan their next steps,” Impossible said. During the incident, the drone was able to show officers that an open kitchen vent was quickly leaking tear gas, which allowed the SWAT team to adjust strategy and succeed in their peaceful arrest.

“During critical incidents, real-time intelligence is extremely important. At this recent event involving a barricaded subject with a gun, Impossible Aerospace provided a piece of intelligence that our agency previously has never had access to,” said Gary Berg, public information officer for the Campbell Police Department. “The use of the US-1 drone helped us optimize the safety of our officers and the community while providing valuable information to the command post through the live video feed. Fortunately, after almost 12 hours, the suspect was taken into custody safely. We are very appreciative of the assistance that Impossible Aerospace provided during this incident.”

Spencer Gore Impossible Aerospace

Spencer Gore, Impossible Aerospace CEO

“We are glad the situation is over and that the Campbell community and all involved are safe,” said Spencer Gore, CEO of Impossible Aerospace.

The company said it is forging partnerships with local governments, police forces, and private customers as demand continues to rise for domestically made aerospace technology. The US-1 is now available for delivery online through its website.

Using drones with CSI

The second incident was a demonstration conducted by Sundance Media Group, FoxFury Lighting Solutions, Westwind Unmanned Vehicles, Yuneec Aviation, Pix4D, and Autel Robotics. Held in Henderson, Nev., the demonstration recreated a homicide scene at a local equestrian park, showing how drones can capture forensic evidence at the scene in the dark and map it in 2D and 3D for law enforcement use.

A drone pilot from Sundance Media Group flies a UAV over a mock crime scene to capture photos for mapping. Source: FoxFury Lighting Solutions

A model, outfitted with moulage (fake injuries for the purposes of training emergency personnel), laid out as a “murder victim.” Four Nomad T56 Scene Lights from FoxFury illuminated the surrounding area to aid with photo and video capture. Two drone launch pads were positioned at one end of the scene – one held an Autel EVO, the other held a Yuneec H520. Flying for 30 minutes, the Autel Evo manually captured 60 frames per second of 4K resolution images, as well as video recording up to 100 mbps. “This was the first time Autel showcased their new LiveDeck technology, allowing the aircraft footage to be seen live at the Sundance Media Group’s Aerial Vehicle Operations Center,” Autel said. Once the data was captured, it was imported into Pix4DMapper software, compiling maps and models of the scene that attendees could view on a large monitor within minutes.

Yuneec H520 Drone

A Yuneec H520 drone equipped with two FoxFury Rugo drone lights flies the scene, collecting photos.

The goal of the demonstration was to show attendees how a combination of portable lighting, drone hardware and mapping software can reduce field and surveying time for law enforcement issues, as well as increase the accuracy of investigations.

“There is also a safety benefit as officials can evaluate a scene from a safe distance rather than putting themselves in harm’s way,” the companies said in a statement.

A video of the event can be viewed here. An article by Pix4D providing more technical details can be seen here. Similar demonstrations and workshops are scheduled throughout this year.