Edmonton Police deploy UAVs for traffic investigations

By Emily Aasand | February 19, 2015

The Edmonton Police Service began using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in traffic collision investigations to effectively measure and examine tire marks, distances and lines of sight at the scene.

“The UAV provides aerial data for collision reconstruction and effective courtroom testimony,” said Constable Binoy Prabhu, lead of the UAV program with EPS Traffic Section. “The UAV can take specific scene data and evidence which we can then use for forensic measurement that assists major collision investigators.”

In June 2014, the EPS received its operations certificate by Transport Canada, a certificate that’s required for UAVs over 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) and operations involving UAVs over 25 kg (55 lbs.).

The Edmonton Police said it first used the UAV in a fatal collision on June 29, 2014 and has since used the UAV in over 15 major collision investigations. The Edmonton Police Traffic Section has three officers fully trained to operate the UAV and four other police officers at various stages of training to qualify as UAV operators.

The team uses a six-rotor UAV manufactured by Chaos Choppers of Swift Current, Saskatchewan, and is operated by two police officers—one pilot and one spotter—and is flown in the line-of-sight at all times. The UAV includes a Flight Data Recorder, a 5,000 lumen search light, a FLIR thermal imaging and a fully remote controlled digital SLR camera. The EPS operates the UAV at 300 feet and the vehicle has an endurance of 12 minutes.

“What we were really looking at when we looked at the feasibility of putting this program in place was to be able to put together presentations of images to provide an overall perspective of the collision scenes that we typically respond to,” said Prabhu. “We also found that presenting aerial image of evidence as it interacted at the area of impact was a real plus when trying to communicate the same topic to the courtroom.”

In November 2014, Transport Canada announced exemptions to simplify sUAV operations and safely integrate sUAVs into Canadian airspace.

“These exemptions will require companies to fly sUAVs within certain safety conditions including height restrictions, minimum distances from aerodromes and other hazards, as well as flight in specific airspace and visual line of sight,” a spokesperson for Transport Canada told UAS Magazine.