Using drones to collect data: things to consider

Following on from Drones in Dispute Resolution (Part 1), here is a rough and ready list of some of the issues and challenges that arise when using drones in dispute resolution:

1. How relevant is the data that is being collected? Why waste time and money collecting data that won’t be relevant to the matter at hand. A judge commented on this issue in a recent Australian case.

2. Who collected or is going to collect the data? Are they sufficiently licensed to do so? Are they credible? Has the person who is going to collect the data obtained any relevant consents, waivers, clearances or approvals? These questions relate to the broader important question of admissibility of evidence.

3. What hardware (drone) is being used to collect the data? Drones come in all shapes and sizes… make sure you have the right drone (or drone fleet) for the right job. The same applies to software. What software is being used to collect and process the data? DroneDeploy and Pix4D are two excellent software providers.

Pearl Tower, Shanghai

4. Who is going to prepare the model (if a model is required)? What type of model will it be? How long will it take for the model to be prepared? How will this impact any mandated timelines in the matter?

A few more things to consider

5. How will the data be stored once it has been collected? Will another side be able to subpoena the data as part of the judicial process? Will some of the data be privileged?

6. Will the model or footage need to be marked-up, augmented or transformed into virtual reality? Who will do this, how much will it cost and how long will it take?

7. How will the collected data, if it ultimately forms part of the record, be stored?

Very useful tools in the right circumstances

As you can hopefully see, there are a number of unique challenges in using drones (UAVs) in dispute resolution. In light of these it may not be appropriate to use them (and their related systems) for your matter. However, in the right circumstances they may be very useful tools for dispute resolution.

A bridge too far?

One last thought: as DNA science developed it led to the re-opening of cases that were once considered closed, resulting in the exoneration of many individuals that should not have been convicted in the first place (many of who were on death row).

There could be similar arguments put forward in relation to cases that could have gained the benefit of the use of drone technology. One thing to keep in mind though is that man-made locations and environments (from which a model can be created) are susceptible to change over time.

Have you had any personal experience with drones in dispute resolution? If so, did it help or hinder?

Thanks for reading!

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Photos by the Dronetrepreneur and Fzetin (Oriental Pearl Tower, Shanghai) from Instagram.