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Evaluation of Terrestrial Laser Scanning and Aerial Remote Sensing with Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems for Forensic Crime-Scene Reconstruction

NCJ Number
Date Published
84 pages

This is the Final Research Report on a project that evaluated the use of small, unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) remote sensing technologies for use in crime-scene data collection, reconstruction, and visualization.


The objectives in achieving this goal were to 1) compare the efficiency and quality of sUAS airborne-based electro-optical sensor to ground-based methods for crime-scene reconstruction and 2) compare the efficiency and quality of sUAS airborne-based LIDAR sensor to ground-based methods (i.e., terrestrial laser scanning) for crime-scene reconstruction. The research used an exploratory applied research method and case study approach to evaluate three remote sensing modalities: 1) aerial structure from motion (SfM) photogrammetry, 2) aerial light detection and ranging (LIDAR), and 3) terrestrial laser scanning (TLS). Both quantitative and qualitative data were collected across three simulated crime scenarios. The three crime scenarios were 1) an urban scene of a carjacking/shooting; 2) a forested-area scenario that involved a suicide; and 3) a clandestine grave in an open field. This report describes the research design, methods, and data analysis techniques. The study examined the level of error for the models with each reconstruction method, the completeness of each model, the impact of environmental factors on results, and the appropriate selection of sensing technology based on crime scene variables. The primary limitation of this research is that it applies only to the reconstruction of outdoor crime scenes. Some of the limitations identified in this project justify future research. 10 figures, 6 tables, and 6 references

Date Published: January 1, 2020