Drone solutions company Draganfly Innovations and Saskatchewan Polytechnic succesfully used an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to help with a prosecution following a conservation-related crime.
In April 2017, Draganfly Innovations and Sask Polytech received an Engage Grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada to pursue research using UAVs to get a 3D snapshot of a conservation crime scene. In the same month, the partners were able to put their project to the test, assisting with a wildlife investigation in which a cow and calf moose were shot illegally near Alvena, Saskatchewan.
Working closely with conservation officers, Sask Polytech researchers David Halstead and Leila Benmerrouche and Draganfly sales lead Andrew Carson were happy to put their applied research project to use in a real-world setting, says Sask Polytech.
“Our systems provide ease of use and automated data collection, allowing law enforcement officers to easily collect information and recreate those scenes, essentially preserving their crime scene so it can be measured and observed,” Carson explains. “When developing a UAV program, it’s not just taking a drone out and flying it, but understanding the optimal workflow and sharing that with other officers.”
The applied research team used a fixed-wing senseFly eBee UAV to conduct a mapping mission of the area. A total of 150 photographs were taken by the drone and were used to recreate a 3D snapshot of the crime scene. A digitized tool was used to highlight tire and moose tracks; a nearly continuous set of tracks was traced from where the moose was processed to where the vehicle had become stuck in a ditch.
“Conservation and environmental protection officers work in wide open spaces, where evidence of movements and actions of perpetrators such as wildlife poachers must be interpreted in complex terrain, unlimited by walls, streets or buildings,” says Halstead, a senior researcher and project manager within Sask Polytech’s School of Natural Resources and Built Environment in Prince Albert.
According to Sask Polytech, the ability to tie the case together visually through the use of drone technology was beneficial in solidifying evidence for the prosecution, and it gave a visual story of what happened to the cow moose and calf.