FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — One of the Fort Wayne Police Department’s (FWPD) most versatile tools isn’t a vehicle or a weapon.

It’s a fleet of over 30 drones.

Their many applications include search and rescue, searching for suspects, and even helping to monitor drivers, but the FWPD also utilizes drones for crash reconstruction.

“We have found that we have cut the number of times for crash scenes in half, it used to be a long process with what the crash team was using for their investigation,” said Matt Rowland with the FWPD Air Support Unit. “They were using placards and cameras, they don’t have to set all that up now with drones.”

One of the orange markers

The process is quick from start to finish, and all the equipment needed to operate the drones fits into a squad car.

First, orange metal markers are placed around the site of the crash. They help calibrate the drone so that the pictures the drone takes can be used for accurate measurements.

Then, a survey pole is used at each marker to denote its coordinates, another measure that helps create hyper-accurate images you can measure from.

Rowland uses a surveyor’s pole to digitally mark a location

Once all the locations have been digitally marked by the surveyor’s pole, the drone is deployed to take pictures of the entire scene.

Rowland says that depending on the size of the scene, the number of pictures can vary wildly. At a mock scene WANE 15 set up, the drone took 24 pictures. At a bus crash last week, an FWPD drone took hundreds.

Once the images are taken, they are uploaded with the data taken from the surveyor’s pole.

The data is then combined with the digital images the drone took to produce images that are accurate to the inch for measuring.

If we went outside with a tape measure and measured them, it would be spot on,” Rowland said. “So all of these measurements that you can do on the computer, you don’t have to do on the scene. That’s what helps clean up the scenes a lot faster.”