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Evaluating Aerial Systems for Crime-Scene Reconstruction

NCJ Number
Date Published
October 2021

This article presents research that evaluated the use of drones equipped with remote sensors for crime scene analysis and reconstruction, a technique that may reduce the risk of evidence contamination and enhance safety for forensic personnel.


Conventional methods of collecting information from crime scenes, including photography, charting, and terrestrial laser scanning, require forensic personnel to walk through the crime scene, risking evidence contamination as well as bodily harm from hazardous environments. New drone-mounted sensing technologies could help investigators reconstruct crime scenes from the air without having to physically enter the space. National Institute of Justice-supported researchers from Kansas State University evaluated the use of small, unmanned aircraft systems (i.e., drones) equipped with two types of remote sensors for crime scene reconstruction and compared their performance to conventional terrestrial laser scanning. Their findings showed that terrestrial laser scanning created more accurate images of staged outdoor crime scenes than the aerial methods. However, a combination of terrestrial and aerial scanning allowed faster data capture over the entire crime scene while maintaining a higher level of accuracy than either method on its own.

Date Published: October 1, 2021