• Scholarly report

Low-light collision scene reconstruction using unmanned aerial systems

The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) maintains nearly 80,000 miles of roadway and works closely with multiple state and local agencies to respond to emergencies that impact road systems. When collisions occur, the NCDOT Traffic Management Unit partners with the North Carolina State Highway Patrol (NCSHP) to investigate the incident and clear roads as quickly as possible. Collision scene investigation and reconstruction is a time-sensitive process focused on gathering and recording critical evidence in a safe, fast, and efficient manner.

In 2017, NCDOT and NCSHP conducted research on utilizing an unmanned aerial system (UAS) for collision reconstruction. The study found significant benefits and advantages that UAS technology offers the NCSHP, as well as other government agencies, for daylight collision reconstruction. Using a UAS can cut the time to perform a collision reconstruction from over 90 minutes to less than half an hour and save thousands of dollars. However, the research identified that low light conditions posed a unique hurdle. NCDOT and NCSHP partnered again to study how UAS could be used in low light conditions with lighting supplements. The NCDOT and NCSHP contracted RTI International and The University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNC Charlotte) for this research effort.
The goal of this project is to evaluate the suitability of using unmanned aerial systems (UAS) to perform low-light collision scene reconstructions. Prior work by the NCDOT and NCSHP has shown that UAS are suitable for replacing 3-D scans by the FARO Focus3D X330 laser scanner for daytime collision scenes. The RTI and UNC Charlotte teams were tasked by NCDOT (sponsor) and NCSHP (client) with understanding whether, and if so, under what conditions UASs are suitable for producing low-light collision reconstructions.


Eyerman, J. D., Mooring, B., Catlow, M., Datta, S., & Akella, S. (2018). Low-light collision scene reconstruction using unmanned aerial systems. Research Triangle Park, NC: RTI International; Charlotte, NC: University of North Carolina at Charlotte. https://www.rti.org/publication/low-light-collision-scenereconstruction-using-unmanned-aerial-systems.