A New Method in Brazil Uses Drones as Crime Scene Investigators

Drones can be the first to arrive at the scene of a crime and look for evidence.
Fabienne Lang

You've most likely watched a detective movie or tv show at some point, so you'll be well versed in the typical crime scene: A detective arrives and starts surveying the cordoned-off area. This survey has to be done quickly and meticulously before any outside factors can tamper with the scene.

However, in real life, environmental circumstances such as wind or rain can sweep in and ruin valuable evidence. Sometimes, even the investigators or special forensics can contaminate the crime scene.

So, a team of researchers in Brazil has started to look into a new investigative option: drones. 


How could drones be more helpful for crime scenes?

The research is still in its first stages, however. But, as drones could arrive more quickly by flying directly to a crime scene, they could scan the area and use the stereo and camera onboard to capture evidence.

The brain behind the project is Pompílio Araújo, a criminal expert for the Federal Police of Brazil, who is responsible for documenting and recording crime scenes exactly as they are found. 

Araújo also works as a researcher at the Intelligent Vision Research Lab at the Federal University of Bahia. In creating this specific drone, Araújo aims to make the initial recording of crime scenes easier, more accurate, and faster. 

The drone would be able to record the evidence from above, swooping in low, and snapping the scene from different angles. 

Called the AirCSI, the drone system begins by scanning the area, uses a stereo camera, as well as a visual self-localization mapping system (SLAM) to monitor where the drone is located. 

"Initially, the drone [flies] at a height that can take a broad view of the crime scene and detect some larger pieces of evidence," explained Araújo. This information was based on his first study.

At the moment, the drone is able to detect guns, but the hope is to train it to identify other objects, weapons, and even blood stains. 

Now, Araújo and his team have developed the drone to include a second camera, which is trained to capture evidence from different angles. This new part of the study is published in IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Letters.

In this new system, the drone can calculate the area surrounding the evidence, taking into account its potential relevance and size. Then, the drone flies in a zig-zag motion, sweeping the area multiple times so as to collect even more data on every bit of evidence.