Tippecanoe County Sheriff's Department finds UAS beneficial when conducting crash site assessments

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Crash assessments can take a lot of time, but the Tippecanoe County Sheriff’s Department in Lafayette, Indiana has found that UAS can be very beneficial when it comes to conducting crash site assessments.

Lieutenant Robert Hainje of the Tippecanoe County Sheriff’s Department says that the department’s methods of using close range photogrammetry with its camera systems that it has in place causes the department to keep the road way closed down while they take photographic evidence.

Obviously, this can be a major inconvenience for drivers, but it can also be dangerous for officers as well, as closing down roads for long periods of time means a greater chance of a driver plowing into cars while waiting for the site to be cleared. Darcy Bullock, the Director of the Joint Transportation Research Program at Purdue University, says that stopping traffic on roadways greatly increases the risk of another accident.

“Secondary crashes are a significant risk factor when you have the road closed,” Bullock says via Indiana Public Media. “If you can reduce road closure you are going to reduce that risk of secondary crashes by a factor of 24.”

That's where UAS, and some researchers at Purdue University, come in, as the technology can make crash site assessments “safer, more accurate and faster.”

“With the UAV technology again, we can shoot a scene, for example an 800-foot scene that we recently had, we shot that entire scene in a matter of 22 minutes,” Hainje explains.

​Requiring very little input from an emergency responder, the UAS can create a grid to document the entire scene, down to the smallest details. 

Once the UAS has completed its mission, responders take the footage to researchers at Purdue, who then process the pictures to create hyper-detailed 3-D maps of the crash site.

Not only are the images more accurate, but they also provide a lot more detail than any previous crash site assessment technology.

Overall, Bullock is happy with how well the UAS is performing, and says that they are ready to scale up the technology across the state.