Local drone research helps solve conservation crime

By Bryan Eneas
April 16, 2018 - 8:00am Updated: April 16, 2018 - 10:25am

Drone research and technology helped solve the illegal shooting of a moose cow and calf in Saskatchewan last year.

Draganfly Innovations and Saskatchewan Polytech received a grant in 2017 from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada to pursue research using UAVs to create a 3D snapshots. Draganfly, who sells “aerial solutions” to law enforcement organizations worldwide, partnered with Saskatchewan Polytech campus researchers Leila Benmerrouche and David Halstead to do the work.

Their research was put to use to help solve the shooting, which took place near Alvena, Sask. The team used a fixed-wing drone to conduct mapping of the crime scene. One-hundred-fifty photographs were taken in order to recreate a 3D map of the area. Tire and moose tracks were highlighted, which were used to give a “visual story to what happened to the cow and moose.”

Halstead, a senior researcher and project manager for the School of Natural Resources Technology Program in Prince Albert, said helping to solve the crime showed the value of drones to Saskatchewan's Conservation Officers.

“That's where the proof-of-concept sort of came about,” Halstead said, adding the researchers had done quite a bit of work with the technology, including work at a simulated crime scene in Candle Lake.

For Halstead, the most interesting part of the research project was obtaining fiducial markers through another small funding grant from the National Research Council, which allowed for more exact measurements to be taken.

“These are just little markers you put on the ground, and those markers it turns out were quite the addition to the analysis,” Halstead said. “They allowed the camera to know exactly where everything is and they really added a lot of precision to the entire scene.”

Halstead said there is no formal agreement with the Ministry of Environment, and in the Alvena case the team simply agreed to help out. 


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