Pilot Authenticates Drone Video Evidence

Auditors and official investigators are using remote control cameras and sensors to collect evidence.  The cameras and sensors might be mounted on drones, robots or other vehicles.

How can the trustworthiness of image, video or other sensory evidence be established?

The video below demonstrates a technique for promoting trustworthiness.  It shows the investigator (e.g., a property appraiser) narrating the evidence feed as it arrives in real time.  His narration describes what is happening so that a future judge or jury can understand and evaluate the evidence.

Simulation of Accountability

The video below is just a simulation.  It purports to show live video from a drone flying over Dallas.  However, in truth the simulation merely shows image snippets from Google Maps. (I grin sheepishly as someone who's so lazy that he does this by simulation rather than by acquiring and learning to pilot a real drone.)

In the video, notice that the investigator identifies himself and takes responsibility for the evidence.  He shows his face and records his oral narration of events in a screencast.  The screencast unites two windows – one window showing the simulated video from the drone and a second window showing the realtime webcam image of the investigator.

Scripted Words of Evidence

The investigator closes the screencast with a spoken script.  The script effectively causes the investigator to create a legal, signed affidavit.  Under the affidavit the investigator puts his professional reputation on the line, signing and affirming the screencast video as accurate evidence.  Under the script, he states date and time with his voice and his moving lips; date and time can be corroborated when the investigator uploads the video to a cloud service (like webmail or Dropbox or Sharepoint) that is outside his control.

Similar Evidence from Cloud Computing

I have previously published screencast videos like this for recording evidence that arrives from cloud computing, such as social media on the web or legal records (e.g., text messages) stored via mobile apps.

Signed Flight Report by Pilot

This process could be used for more than surveillance.  For instance, the pilot of a drone or a robot might make and sign a video like this as proof of his flight or mission.  Alternatively, a physician might memorialize 
  • a telemedicine physical examination of a patient, or 
  • the transcript of a surgery performed by robot but supervised step-by-step by the physician.

Here's another example:  A civil engineer could use a drone or other unmanned vehicle to survey a bridge.  The vehicle could fly, swim and crawl under, over and around the bridge, recording the appearance of the bridge and measuring attributes like rust or cracks in the structure.*  Then the engineer could close the video/sensor record with an oral, webcam attestation that she certifies the record as her professional work.  Thus the engineer would support the final report with her licensed-professional qualifications and reputation.  Her webcam attestation might be analogous to a professional seal applied to paper drawings or blueprints.

What are your comments on this technique for preserving evidence?


* Footnote:  Under one scenario, the engineer might remotely cause the robot vehicle to probe the bridge physically.  For instance, while watching via real-time video, the engineer might direct the
bot to drill into the bridge material and test for corrosion or structural integrity.  As the engineer performs this procedure, she would narrate each step, and professionally interpret the results of each step, via webcam.

Update: Apparently North Carolina has adopted legislation to restrict the use of drones for certain private and government investigations.

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