By Philippe Lefebvre, P.T., B.A.,

Drone emergence and recent developments in technology allow data gathering that previously required larger and more expensive means. Aerial photography was possible using an airplane or helicopter; however, this approach required planning and was expensive. Now, the aerial image can be taken using a drone and the quality is quite impressive. It is now possible to document elements or components that are sometimes inaccessible. For example, this approach provides an overview of a fire scene in minutes.

Beyond photographs in an investigation context, the acquisition of data from a drone also allows for 3D modeling. Using specialized software, it is possible to obtain information on the dimensions or volumes of elements or structures.

Before flying

While this is accessible, training and drone pilot certification is necessary for the operations being planned. The restrictions regarding the operation of a drone are numerous, and only certified pilots have the capacity and knowledge to operate and document a scene in a forensic framework. The use of the drone, in particular for professional purposes, is subject to strict regulations.

The Canadian Aviation Regulations, which derive from the Canadian Aeronautics Act, set out a series of rules to follow regarding the certifications required for the operation of a drone. As of June 1, 2019, the piloting of a drone, also known as the Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS), requires pilot certification. Evaluations are theoretical and, in some cases, practical; therefore, training at a flight school can be a valuable asset. It is crucial to understand airspaces, and associated rules, to avoid a collision in mid-flight with another aircraft. A flight plan must be prepared before each flight mission.

At CEP, employees qualified to pilot a drone as part of an investigation have received training and obtained the appropriate pilot certification. In the event of an offense the fines are high and the penalties are severe for those who break the rules. The time when the drone was only a toy is over.

Drone expertise

Using a drone as part of an expert assessment provides valuable information in a secure manner. There are limits to the use of the drone, such as weather or the presence of air infrastructure. Awareness of the landscape and surrounding buildings, powerlines and roadways is important. The applications are numerous and diverse. For example, it is possible to take photographs of a chimney that may have been involved in a fire. Using the aerial view, it is possible to identify the seat of a fire and / or explain the spread. Images can be taken in places that are usually inaccessible. It is also possible to take excavation assessments to calculate volumes. Finally, it is even possible to observe, without risk, the MSDS sheet of an equipment. There are therefore many possibilities for the use of the drone in forensic investigation. In litigation files, these images can provide evidence that is clear, and a better overall understanding of the situation. There are many possibilities when using a drone in an investigation, such as photography, video and 3D modeling. Do not hesitate to contact us so that we can evaluate the possibilities of using the drone as part of your files. It is through innovation that CEP stands out. Here is the proof, once more. 

If you see a drone flying in dangerous conditions or you witness an incident involving a drone, report the situation to Transport Canada at https://www.tc.gc.ca/en/services/aviation/drone-safety/report-drone-incident.html

If you have any questions or would like to learn more about this topic, please contact Philippe Lefebvre at 877 686-0240 or plefebvre@cep-experts.ca

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