WSP is using a new tool to map out car accident scenes for investigations

Washington State Patrol has a new investigator and it’s helping troopers from the sky.

The Unmanned Aerial System, or UAS, has been apart of WSP since May. It’s designed to map out a car accident scene on the highway.

“Our goals were to number one, to reduce road closure time,” said Trooper Chris Thorson with Washington State Patrol. “We’re reducing lane closures and highway closures 60 to 75 percent.”

With the UAS, troopers don’t have to shutdown the roads during an investigation because the UAS is taking the photos. Drivers are still able to get through on the road and drive underneath the UAS.

“When traffic gets backed up, that’s the possibility of more collisions,” said Trooper Thorson.

Since the start of the UAS, WSP has used it for 15 crashes. It maps out the crash and creates a 3-D image of the crash site showing the scene in real-time.

The UAS is flown by a certified pilot–either a detective or trooper. Between Yakima and the Tri-Cities, there are five certified pilots. WSP has 42 detectives and 15 troopers throughout the state.

Aside from investigating scenes, the UAS can provide protection for troopers.

“Officer safety-wise, is to keep troopers off the highway and less in danger,” said Trooper Thorson.

He says troopers aren’t in the middle of the road measuring marks on the ground, making it safer and allowing them to respond to other calls.

For the pilots, they must pass an FAA exam and go through 40 hours of training before they can fly the UAS. The technology and use of the UAS gained national recognition after officials utilized it for the December 2017 Amtrak derailment in DuPoint.