Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 186, Issue 12, pp 8291–8301 | Cite as

Remote sensing in environmental police investigations: aerial platforms and an innovative application of thermography to detect several illegal activities

  • M. Lega
  • C. Ferrara
  • G. Persechino
  • P. Bishop


Being able to identify the environmental crimes and the guilty parties is central to police investigations, and new technologies enable the authorities to do this faster and more accurately than ever before. In recent years, our research team has introduced the use of a range of aerial platforms and an innovative application of thermography to detect several illegal activities; for example, illegal sanitary sewer and storm-drain connections, illicit wastewater discharges, and other “anomalies” on surface waters can be easily identified using their thermal infrared signatures. It can also be used to detect illegal solid/liquid waste dumps or illicit air discharges. This paper introduces first results of a Thermal Pattern and Thermal Tracking approach that can be used to identify different phenomena and several pollutants. The aims of this paper were to introduce a fingerprint paradigm for environmental police investigations, defining several specific signatures (patterns) that permit the identification of an illicit/anomalous activity, and establish a procedure to use this information to find the correlation (tracking) between the crime and the culprit or the source and the target.


Environmental forensics Environmental crime Thermography Thermal pattern Thermal tracking Drones 



We wish to acknowledge the Italian Public Prosecutor’s Office (a special thanks to the Chief Prosecutor Corrado Lembo).

Finally, we wish to thank NaturalDrones for their contribution in the development of the drone StillFly.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EngineeringUniversity of Naples ParthenopeNaplesItaly
  2. 2.CIRAItalian Aerospace Research CenterCapuaItaly
  3. 3.College of EngineeringUniversity of Rhode IslandKingstownUSA

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