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FINDAR® – Enhanced Features for Forensic Investigations
T

he FINDAR® GPR system was created for law enforcement to use ground penetrating radar (GPR) technology to search for evidence buried under the ground.  The advantage of GPR compared to other commonly-used subsurface search technologies, such as metal detectors, is its ability to detect non-metallic objects.

For forensic investigations, this allows investigators to identify clandestine graves, items made of plastic or wood, caches of drugs and money, and hidden bunkers.

After analyzing feedback from our customers, a new, enhanced version of FINDAR® has been released.

Forensic investigators often use many technologies; a common challenge is staying sharp on technologies that they do not use every day. FINDAR®, an application-specific GPR, solves this problem with its intuitive touchscreen interface that is designed to be operated with minimal training.

Findar crime scene ground scanner

FINDAR® has two modes of operation – Line Scan and Grid Scan. Line Scans generate cross-sectional images of the subsurface and are useful for reconnaissance data collection over a large area or when working in confined areas around houses and trees, where grid collection is not possible. Line Scans can be started immediately, with no setup of parameters required. When an anomaly is located, the back-up arrow is used to pinpoint the location of buried objects and disturbed soil.

ground cross section scanning plot
Figure 1:
Line Scan showing an area of disturbed soil.

Grid Scan is the preferred survey method when more accessible areas like backyards or fields need to be searched because it provides three-dimensional data, resulting in more detailed images of the subsurface. Predefined grid sizes allow for rapid setup to quickly start data collection.

One common problem with forensics investigations is the presence of obstacles, such as trees, that just can’t be moved for the GPR survey. FINDAR® addresses this problem with improved obstacle avoidance during grid collection by automatically guiding the operator on the additional grid lines to collect. You can also collect odd shaped grids by just ending lines short or skipping lines altogether.

GPR area scanning grid
Figure 2:
Collecting Grid data around obstacles is easy.

Forensic investigations require quick and informed decisions at an investigation site, so the ability to process the GPR data in the field is critical. Grid Scans are processed into 3D data right on the Display Unit and are shown as a series of 2D depth slices, cutting deeper and deeper into the ground, 5 cm (2 inches) at a time.

GPR amplitude plot
Figure 3:
Depth Slice showing an area of strong reflections in red.

Data images of interest can be saved by pressing the Camera button on the Display Unit to capture the current screen image. FINDAR®’s built-in GPS adds geo-reference tags to these screenshots for future reference which can be displayed easily in Google Earth™ and other GIS programs. The new FINDAR® allows these screen images to be emailed directly from the investigation site using a Wi-Fi network – even your phone’s Hot-spot. This allows investigators to quickly share findings with those not at the investigation site.

For larger scale surveys, consisting of multiple Line and Grid Scans, positioning all the data on a common coordinate system is critical. Traditional methods for doing this are grid layouts and placing flags or markers at areas of interest. The new FINDAR® allows for more accurate positioning with the addition of an external GPS. This enables the spatial relationship between all the collected lines and grids to be displayed in the field in Map View. This helps identify areas that may have been missed during the GPR survey.

GPR plot attenuation
Figure 4:
With external GPS, see a map of Grid Scans, Line Scans and field interpretations on the screen of the Display Unit.

FINDAR® also allows the user to add field interpretations as data are being collected or while replaying the line later. Interpretations can be classified using different colors for different types of GPR responses. These interpretations are plotted on the Map View screen along with the lines and grids. This allows investigators to look for patterns that may be significant for recovering buried evidence.

GPR plot attenuation
Figure 5:
Add color-coded interpretations to the data by touching the screen while collecting data in the field.

Using an external GPS enables another extremely powerful and potentially time-saving feature. Using the EKKO_Project™ PC-based software, Line Scans collected with GPS can be processed into depth slices to quickly “slice” through the data and identify targets of interest. What this means is that it is not always necessary to collect an traditional Grid when covering large sized or difficult shaped areas anymore. Operators can now collect long, windy, lines that form “pseudo-grids” to cover the survey area (essentially, collect FINDAR® data like they are mowing a lawn or painting a floor). This allows odd-shaped areas to be covered much faster than collecting data in multiple Grid Scans.

GPR plot attenuation
Figure 6:
Large scale Line Scan processed into depth slices using the Utility Suite software.

 

An important part of any investigation is saving and archiving the findings; FINDAR® makes this easy. All the raw data from a project is saved as a single file (.GPZ), when the data is downloaded to a USB memory stick. All data is time-stamped and geo-referenced (if an external GPS is used), ready to be archived. Results can also be output as PDF reports or standard file formats (including KMZ (Google Earth), CSV (Excel) and DXF (AutoCAD) ) quickly and easily using the EKKO_Project™ PC software.

The new FINDAR® brings a new level of functionality and efficiency to forensic investigations. For more information about the new FINDAR®, contact Sensors & Software at sales@sensoft.ca

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