Drones and Image Analysis Help Locate Gravesites

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Loc8 is pleased to announce that it will be collaborating with Texas State University and the University of Missouri on a $280,000 grant to utilize drones to locate human remains and detect clandestine graves. This grant, which was awarded by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), continues the groundbreaking research conducted in 2015 by Gene Robinson, president of GRC Consulting, and the Texas State Anthropology Department.

Dr. Daniel Wescott of the Forensic Anthropology Center at Texas State states that this two-year project is challenged with documenting the ways drone technology and their payloads (various multispectral cameras) can be used and how it differs with traditional ground-based studies. Loc8 is collaborating with the project to bring its patent-pending image analysis algorithms into the field of aerial forensic science.

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Pilot for the NIJ project Gene Robinson stated, “The ability of Loc8 to scan down to the individual pixel level in each image is going to change the way remote sensing is used in search and rescue (SAR) missions and crime scene investigations. The Loc8 software has only been available since 2019 and we have already realized successes in the field. We are just now scratching the surface in the different ways Loc8’s image analysis algorithms can be used.” The NIJ project is slated to handle a wide array of remote sensors from standard RGB, to near infrared (NIR), to thermal (FLIR) and multi-spectral imagery to detect subtle changes in the environment resulting from human remains on or under the ground from the vantage point of a
deployed drone.

The NIJ Grant project data collection flights began in late January 2020. Over the next two-years, the flights are scheduled to continue on a near daily or weekly basis depending upon the stage of the study.

The research is being conducted in the Texas State University’s 26-acre open-air forensic laboratory.

Under the NIJ project, eight to ten science pledged body donation volunteers (cadavers) will be studied under various scenarios designed to mimic ground conditions of undiscovered clandestine sites. The University of Missouri is tasked with the image/data analytics and will act as the repository for all the data collected.

Robinson added, “The Texas State Forensic Anthropology Research Facility replicates conditions and environments of some of the tough cases we have encountered in the past 15 years. We can really bring the current technology to bear in a scientific way that will be a tremendous benefit to both law enforcement and the search and rescue community.”

The research has already begun at the Texas Hill Country facility and will simulate different environments and seasonal effects on the forensic investigative process. The project will identify best practices for drone utilization, determine the most effective sensors, and explore the advantages of using an image analysis software like Loc8 to enhance the effectiveness and thoroughness of the search and rescue or recovery investigative process.

As part of the NIJ Project, Gene Robinson will be cataloging the changes in the color palettes of the volunteer subject’s skin, soft tissue, and skeletal remains during the natural decomposition process.

These color palettes will then made available as sample data sets for Loc8 subscribers to use during their search and rescue/recovery missions. The Human Remains color palette dataset is one of many datasets Loc8 is developing to assist subscribers.

Loc8 (www.loc8.life) is a patent-pending image scanning technology that analyzes the individual pixels in a digital image (still or video) by searching for colors that match a user defined color palette. Once the defined pixel color(s) are detected in the scanned images,

Loc8 reports the latitude, longitude, and the altitude of the geographical location of the
detected item(s). Loc8 was originally developed to scan digital images (still or video) quickly and thoroughly collected during search and rescue/recovery (SAR) missions. However, since its release, the Loc8 algorithm has been tested as a tool in crime scene investigation, accident reconstruction, debris field mapping, precision agricultural management, wildlife population management, and utility infrastructure inspections, to name a few of the many potential applications.

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