…Friday the 13th I attended a forensic drone class. Essentially, the concept is using the drone as an airborne three-axis camera platform to capture images of a large crime scene without contaminating the area with foot traffic. I had the chance to fly a new out-of-the-box Phantom 4 (hats off to Clif Cameron) for the exercise and I have to say I am impressed with the stability of the platform. Even with my ham-handed think-say-aloud-what-I-am-about-to-do, move the joy stick, ….cuss briefly to myself method, it became quickly intuitive, but enough about drones and the capture of forensic data.
The class included an introduction to two software packages (Pix 4D mapper and Pix 4D capture https://pix4d.com/ ). Pix 4D capture interfaces with the drone control software and flies a programmed pattern over an area automatically capturing images of the area to optimize the creation of a 3D rendering. It is literally a program and launch method that takes over the process of flight and image capture and then returns the drone to base.
Pix 4D mapper takes multiple flat images and stitches them together to create a 3D rendering of a site. Applied to the images captured by a drone, you have a 3D crime scene that can be rotated, panned, etc., but this is only the beginning of the magic. The software can take any collection of images and create a 3D rendering of a scene. This means if there are multiple cell phones at an event capturing images, those images can be rendered into a 3D representation of the event. It also means the images captured by an officer’s dash cam, and/or body cam might be capable of being rendered in 3D.
Several driving forces are in the convergence that makes all of this possible. The ubiquity of cameras in smartphones, the mass production of sensors that populate our smartphones, and the image-rendering power of gaming computers have moved us to the second half of the chess board in video capture and manipulation. (http://www.33rdsquare.com/2015/01/andrew-mcafee-on-second-half-of.html ) To circle back around, for forensics, accident reconstruction, and the visualization of events, the massively flexible camera platform presented by drones, and the power to render in 3D, is changing the rules.