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Droning on…

If you were trying to fly out of Gatwick for your Christmas holiday in late December, you have our sympathy. One of the world’s busiest airports was disrupted by a toy helicopter – or something. The jury still seems to be out on who or what caused this chaos.

Drones make the headlines at reasonably regular intervals – and we see pictures taken from them on our TV screens often enough. If a producer wants an aerial shot, it’s much easier (and cheaper) to hire a drone and operator than to charter a helicopter. The cameras on drones are often of very high quality, and are almost as controllable as one held and operated by a cameraman. The drone is much less disruptive than a helicopter, in terms of noise and almost everything else.

These qualities have also endeared drones to criminals, who use them to fly drugs and miniature’burner phones’ into prisons. Standing outside the prison, the dealer guides the drone, loaded with its illegal and highly valuable cargo, to a specific cell window, where it is hooked inside, unloaded, and sent back, where the ‘return home’ function flies it back automatically into the waiting arms of its owner, who may make tens of thousands of pounds in profits from a single flight.

Making the links

Happily, once there’s a basic lead, it’s reasonably easy to put together a sturdy chain of evidence that will help to convict the drone operators. The majority of drones contain a camera, which records the flight on a memory card. One of the first things that anyone does with a new toy, such as a drone, is to have a play with it, and several crooks have had their features clearly captured on video by their own drones, as they fly them from their homes, as they get used to operating them.

Drones also often include a GPS tracker. With time and date stamps, it can be shown that a drone was in a certain place at a certain time. When this data is linked to a mobile phone’s cell tower and GPS data, the likelihood that a certain person was operating this drone increases. Add to this CCTV images of a vehicle’s number plates, and the net is tightened.

First Response specialises in linking evidence from different sources in this way, to provide a coherent and complete picture of the events surrounding an incident, and presenting this information in such a way that it can be used in Court as evidence. State-of-the-art analytical software allows the discovery and presentation of links within terabytes of data to be completed within hours rather than weeks. If necessary, we can provide experienced expert witnesses to give evidence in Court and provide clear explanations of how the results were obtained.

Such digital forensic skills can be employed not just in criminal, but in family, civil, and corporate cases, where the ‘paper trail’ has gone cold, and the evidence resides in a number of different digital repositories. If you think that First Response’s skills can benefit you (or your clients), please get in touch so we determine how we can best assist you.