NewsOperation Safe Roads


DPS begins using drones to help investigate traffic collisions

Posted at 4:47 AM, Mar 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-11 08:40:49-04

PHOENIX — The Arizona Department of Public Safety recently started using new technology to help them in collision investigations out on Valley roadways.

"So, this one here... we've kind of made it look like our department aircraft," said Detective Brian Hon with DPS as he showed ABC15 a drone that is much smaller than the helicopter they are used to using.

But, the tiny twin has a massive amount of technology that DPS is using to clear roadways faster and be more thorough with their investigations.

"Some of the appealing portions to me was, first of all, the output that we can create," Hon explained.

Detective Hon is the first drone pilot within the Vehicular Crimes Unit. He said they have been using them operationally for the last year or so. They have also worked to train roughly a dozen other drone pilots since he first started.

"The way that the software works is...a series of overlapping photos and the software," Hon described. "We stitch them together and we create like a Google Maps-type image of an entire scene. Within that image, it's measurable, scalable, GPS located. So, the type of product that we're able to put out is far above and beyond what we're able to do in the past."

The aerial view also allows detectives to see things that were not visible from the ground that can help solve the investigation.

"We capture the imagery and then we can clear the road," Hon said. "And all of the measurement, all of the real good work to it can be done in the office, that way we can have the roadway open have the roadway clear and we'll still be able to get the same data just with the roadway cleared quicker."

Hon said they hope to expand the drones beyond his unit. He thinks there are plenty of uses for it in crime scene investigations, arson investigations, SWAT work, etc.

The department said the cost is also far less than using their helicopter for an aerial view.