Washington Police Department Adopts Photogrammetry, UAVs

The police department of Renton, Wash., has adopted the use of photogrammetry via unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to survey crash and crime scenes.

According to the department, the technology will enable investigators to process crime scenes much more quickly and accurately than ever before; in comparison, using handheld surveyor equipment can take officers several hours to complete. In addition, once the data is collected, it can take several more hours of work to turn the data into a diagram that could be used by investigators.

The department adds that the 3D cloud map is far more detailed and accurate than the diagrams produced with handheld equipment, and investigators can reference it for later use.

The Renton Police Department has received authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration to use two UAVs, which as Commander Chad Karlewicz emphasizes, will not be used for “random surveillance activities.”

“The real benefit is to the public we serve. One of the biggest advantages of the new system is our ability to arrive on a scene, deploy our UAV and, in minutes, have the results we need. Before, roads would’ve been closed for hours while we did our work,” he explains.

Karlewicz adds, “We are sensitive about the public’s perception that part of the new system uses UAVs. But our policy only lets us use it for taking video/photographs for investigative support (traffic collisions, homicide, etc.), hazmat response, search and rescue, barricaded persons, disaster response (flood, earthquakes, etc.), and tactical support.”


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