Bargersville police using new drone software for crash investigations

BARGERSVILLE, Ind. – Bargersville police officials believe they are the first police department in the state to use emerging software that allows drones to help gather measurements for crash scene investigations.

Chief Todd Bertram says his investigators began using “Drone Deploy” software two months ago and it is already saving officers’ time at crash scenes.

“Have less officers tied up at the scene for a less amount of time, but still gather the data that needs to be gathered,” Bertram said.

The Drone Deploy program connects a drone to a web-based interface that allows an officer to map the perimeter of a crash site on a tablet. The drone then flies itself across the perimeter, crisscrossing the grid and taking dozens of high-resolution photos of the scene below. The photos are fed into the software and processed into a single image of the crash scene. Using the mosaic image, investigators can mark points on the map in order to take measurements, rather than investigators physically measuring at the scene.

The measurements can include angles and distances of skid marks, grade, slope and elevation, and other physical aspects of the crash. The high-resolution images can also show highly-detailed depictions of debris and damage from the crash. These and other measurements allow accident investigators to determine speeds, stopping distances and other aspects involved in a crash.

“This makes it very simple to come in here, pull this screen up,” said Officer Willam Johnson. “There’s my measurement, there’s my measurement. I just start plugging them into the math equations to here’s how this accident took place.”

Aside from the accuracy of the measurements, Chief Bertram says using the drone to quickly gather data can speed up investigations and reduce the amount of time investigators need to block traffic.

“What we can do with this software is make that from two to three hours to about 30 to 45 minutes,” Bertram said. “It’s going to take longer to get the victims out of there and the cars out of there than it is to gather the information.”

Another benefit to the program is that it is web-based, Bertram said. So processing the information can start at the scene of a crash, or back at the police station. Storage of the data is cloud-based, so it can be kept available indefinitely.

Based on the success of Drone Deploy so far, Bertram expects other area police departments to start looking into it soon.

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