The Iowa State Patrol has unveiled a squadron of drones which leaders say can help minimize highway disruptions and provide quicker clearances of crash scenes.
Troopers are incorporating a new Small Unmanned Aircraft System into their technical crash investigation program. State Patrol Sergeant Alex Dinkla says their current technology does a good job of documenting a crash scene, but the drone system can do it faster.
“Sometimes, it could take several hours to investigate a crash scene,” Dinkla says. “So as we are out there, if we’re out there on the interstate and we have maybe the interstate shut down for several hours, we know that there’s a lot of people that are affected by that. This new technology, once we become fully proficient with that, our hope is to maybe be able to map a crash scene in 20 to 30 minutes.”
Dinkla says the pictures the drones take are all meshed together to create a 3-D rendering of the crash scene to scale.
“This takes only still pictures and the still pictures are all activated by the pilot as they are flying it taking the still pictures,” Dinkla says. “Then all of those images, once they are loaded into our program behind the scenes, then all of those images are what we call stitched together, and so then they make kind of a big plot where they can be able to see all those images.”
Trooper Mark Anderson, of the patrol’s Fort Dodge office, is one of eight full-time collision reconstructionists who are assigned to use the new technology. He says once he arrives at a crash scene, he can start documenting things. “If I can get deploy it right away, I can take photographs while they’re still working at the scene, it doesn’t have to be emptied with the emergency personnel or anything to that effect,” Anderson says. “I can fly the scene, take my photographs from the air, we can get the vehicles removed, and clear the roadway and open it up to the public, which is our main goal, to get everything back to normal as quick as possible.”
Anderson says crash scene investigations have come a long ways from using tape measures to now using drones. “Technology is awesome. The end product is just spot-on. Measurements we can do on the computer are just phenomenal,” Anderson says. “What we can do with the 3-D model to show our county attorneys and their juries in a criminal setting what it looks like from drivers’ perspectives, it’s just that much better to help in court purposes.”
Two of the new drones will be used in each quadrant in the state.
(By Bob Fisher, KRIB, Mason City)