The RCMP trials using satellite and hyperspectral aerial imaging to locate remains of missing persons

Ottawa, Ontario – The RCMP’s National Centre for Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains (NCMPUR) is undertaking a Missing Persons Advanced Technology initiative, which uses advancements in satellite and hyperspectral imaging technologies to detect places where human remains, linked to missing person cases, may be partially or shallowly buried or discarded.

This is the first time that the RCMP is using hyperspectral imaging technologies in an attempt to locate human remains. Hyperspectral imaging collects and processes information from across the electromagnetic spectrum from reflected sunlight, capturing information beyond what is visible to the human eye. As proven in past controlled experiments in partnership with the National Research Council Canada, this technology has the potential to better detect characteristics of decomposing bodies and shallow graves based on their affect on the vegetation, soil composition, and other effects, in contrast to the surrounding area.

Hyperspectral imaging collects and processes information from across the electromagnetic spectrum from reflected sunlight, capturing information beyond what is visible to the human eye.
(File Photo) Hyperspectral imaging collects and processes information from across the electromagnetic spectrum from reflected sunlight, capturing information beyond what is visible to the human eye.

The pilot begins the week of May 9, with an aircraft covering two sites in British Columbia.

In missing person cases, collaboration is key. This initiative has been made possible with the support and collaboration of partners including academia, the National Research Council Canada, Agriculture Canada, and ITRES Research Ltd, who are providing their expertise, available technology and support.

Quotes

“The NCMPUR is committed to finding new and innovative ways to locate human remains, find missing persons, and bring much needed answers to families and communities. With this new initiative, NCMPUR is taking the first step forward in exploring the potential of technologies, such as hyperspectral scanning and satellite technology, and the feasibility of offering additional services for other missing person investigations across Canada.” – Chief Superintendent Gordon Sage, Director General of Sensitive and Specialized Investigative Services

Quick facts

Each year in Canada, there are approximately 62,000 individuals reported missing and 40 unidentified human remains discovered.

There are currently just over 8,000 open missing persons and 760 open unidentified remains cases in the Missing Children/Persons Unidentified Remains Database.

The RCMP manages Canada’s Missing, which is a public database of missing persons and unidentified remains. Cases are added to Canada’s Missing at the discretion of the lead investigator.

In early 2020, the RCMP partnered with the New York Academy of Art to re-construct the skulls of 15 unidentified Canadian remains located in Canada. Three of those were subsequently identified. In 2021, advanced imaging techniques were used to provide interactive 3D models for the remaining cases, in another collaborative pilot.

In 2018, the RCMP created the National Missing Persons’ DNA Program – a collaboration between NCMPUR and the National DNA Databank. To date, the program has made 50 identifications throughout Canada.

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