Johnson-Laird Inc.

sUAS/RPA/Drone Forensic Analysis.

sUAV/RPA/Drone Forensic Analysis

(The Ground Is The Limit™)

sUAVs are the leading example of the 1800's adage "what goes up must come down." The primary cause of mishaps appears to be inadequate knowledge, experience, and/or training. There are no FAA training or competency requirements for either a hobbyist or a professional pilot in the USA at present.


The Buy'n'Fly Brigade

Thus you can predict that many people join the "buy'n'fly" brigade, spending anywhere from a few tens of dollars to several thousands of dollars on their aircraft and then charge up the batteries and go fly without any regard to where in the National Airspace System they fly or over what and who they fly.


It's Not the Sky is the Limit -- it's The Ground is the Limit™ is littered with the wreckage of crashed drones some with their batteries smoking and burning -- and it would seem that in most cases, the cause is pilot error. The top causes appear to be: 1) flying into obstacles (e.g. trees, poles, buildings, and occasionally people, and 2) failing to understand that when an sUAV flies towards you, the remote controller only transmits aircraft-relative directions (so to fly to the aircraft's right, you need to move a control stick left). This is known as "control reversal" and requires hours of training for your brain to learn it.


JLI's Forensic Services

JLI can help you determine the cause of a sUAV mishap -- at least for those sUAV that record video and telemetry data on-board the aircraft or the control station (for example, when an iPad is used).


Evidence Production

In a litigation context, the first battle may be to get access to the sUAV's evidence -- and JLI can help you draft the appropriate interrogatories required to produce the evidence.


Evidence Spoliation Testing

Once the sUAV and ground controller evidence has been produced, JLI can perform a forensic examination of the video and telemetry to determine what truths it may contain about the mishap and the likely causes? Was it equipment failure? Pilot error? Or both?


Expert Reports, Deposition and Trial Testimony

JLI can then prepare a detailed, persuasive, expert report identifying the findings as expert testimony that will withstanding scrutiny at deposition or at trial. Working with JLI's sister corporation, JurisLogic LLC, JLI can provide experts to be deposed and testify at trial. JLI and JurisLogic have decades of experience with forensic analysis and the presentation of expert testimony.


"The Ground is the Limit" is a Trademark of Johnson-Laird Inc.

Where Is The Evidence?

Depending on the make and model of sUAV, the answer to this question ranges from "the evidence is in the aircraft and in the ground control station," to "there is none."


For example, the ubiquitous and infamous DJI Phantom quadcopter can store payload camera footage on a microSD card in the camera, but it also stores a lower resolution version of what the camera sees even when the camera is not recording in an iPad that is being used with the pilot's remote controller.

The telemetry data storing in-flight data about the aircraft systems and the flight control commands that the pilot sends from the remote controller are also stored in the aircraft and in the iPad attached to the remote controller.


However, this telemetry data is stored in a proprietary format that requires skill (and special software) to decode.


In contrast, the Freefly Systems Synapse flight controller used for the ALTA multi-rotor professional camera platforms and the MoVI stabilized gimbals store the flight control data in easily readable form on the aircraft and gimbal respectively. The flight data stored is extensive, with up to 160 parameters being stored every few thousandths of a second.


The pilot's ground control station can also record some limited data, but it is not a  rich in detail as the Synapse's flight log.


While the Synapse flight log data is more easily readable, it requires careful interpretation to convert it into a meaningful answers in the event of a mishap.


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