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Drone Forensics Investigation | Impact and ChallengesJuly 16, 2023 - BY SIFS India

Drone Forensics Investigation | Impact and Challenges

Drone Forensics have powerfully approved in last few years, along with this it have been involved in solving crimes also.

Therefore, there is serious need of successful drone programs that remarkably would lower the amount of crime being committed involving drone devices.

Drone Forensics is a idea that is less well known or documented. It helps the forensic combat anti forensics techniques that inhibit investigations resulting in less judgement.

Drones have the capacity to hold a wealth of evidence that could assist forensic investigations. This included the flight path drone, altitude, to inform whether the drone was near cramped airspace such as airports.

Drone Forensics Meaning

Drone Forensics is a word that caters to forensic processing , detection and analysis of unmanned air vehicles. It involves bringing out and scanning evidence in a forensically sound manner on drones. It’s often referred to as UAV forensics, the objective is to recover the footage recorded by the drone as well as other variables related to its flight history, geolocations, unique ID etc.

Basic Principles of Drones

Drones are Unmanned Aerial Vehicles that can be used for all sorts of purposes, entertaining and corporate alike.

Since their inception, drones have come a long way and even the very basic models are capable of taking pictures and recording videos.

The consumer grade models are priced as low as a couple of hundred dollars, thus manufacturing accessible almost to anyone. These are also tiny models acceptable for kids, these small toys often go for even less than that. 

To control them , the operator can issue commands through a radio controller, which is a practical handheld device with a wide range of scope.

Most modern and more high cost models also come with a smartphone app for issuing advanced commands and pinching their settings to the user’s liking.

Since these devices are so easily accessible, trainable and reasonable, the number of drone-related criminal activities are on an upward trend. Therefore, Drone Forensics is gaining popularity when it comes to solving urban and corporate crime.

Illegal Uses of Drones

  • Criminals often use these modern devices to conduct a innumerable illegal activities.
  • Piloting them to smuggle drugs, mobile phones, guns, knives and other weapons, illegal substance into prisons.
  • It has been used as a tool to lead terrorism by planting explosives into stadiums and other public places.
  • Corporate and government spywork as unauthorized monitoring and intelligence gathering.
  • Confusing the workflow of airports and deflecting air traffic.
  • Stalking, harassment and capture of privacy by unethical journalists and reporters.
  • War crimes such as initiating aerial missile attacks.
  • Physical attacks on unsuspecting citizens.
  • Property vandalism.
  • Violation of no fly zones.

Applications of Drone Forensics

Drone forensics play an important role in today’s society and cover a wide range of applications including those in the commercial, Civil, recreational, educational, law enforcement and natural security domain.

With the right apparatus and training a forensic data analyst can extract a wealth of data from one of these devices, making it  satisfactory for analysis and collect vital digital evidence that can lead the truth into the light.

A drone functions like a computer.

Apart from having a data storage unit such as an SD card, USB ports and a CPU, it can also be provided with a video camera and other sensors.

This allows a digital forensic videos analysts to use worldly wise industry tools like VIP 2.0 to extract the missing pieces of the story and find out what happened by looking at the footage catch during the flight.

To make the evidence extracted from drones admissible in court and a digital forensic examiner is need to hold fast to strict guidelines and industry standards.

Data Recovered From Drones

Drones just like a computer and smart devices contain a wealth of data that can be recovered by a trained and certified digital forensic examiner from the device itself and the servers it communicated with while operational.

It includes:

  • Photos taken.
  • Video footage captured.
  • Landing, launching, returning and home locations.
  • Flight plans and purpose.
  • Pained devices.
  • Atmospheric conditions.

It also uncover several details like:

  • GPS status during flight.
  • SSID.
  • Wifi data.
  • Drone’s serial number.
  • IP.
  • Bluetooth.
  • 3G and 4G connectivity status.
  • Pilot control output.
  • File system date.

Challenges Involved

A drone forensics investigators doesn’t always go as planned and there are several challenges in forensic digital examiner can face,

  • Damage to storage media and scattered components.
  • A lack of GPS data.
  • Establishing ownership.
  • A lack of proper digital forensic tools.
  • Connecting to the drone’s USB.
  • Standardisation issues.
  • Remote tampering.
  • Cloud storage.

Destruction Caused to the Storage Media and Scattered Components: If the drone has been damaged during flight or landing pieces of it may be disorganized across the terrain. Not only do they have to be found, collected and grouped the damage sustained during the fall can shake up the storage media thus making it difficult to recover data.

A Lack of GPS Data: If GPS signal was turned off during the flight the EXIF data will not contain any geographic coordinates. This also makes difficult to pinpoint exact connections.

Establishing Ownership: The drone contain some unique number that can detect the original owner. But due to legal problems, it become a difficult process and take several days to complete the investigation

A Lack of Proper Digital Forensics Tools: Drone forensics is very specific and very critical field. All the investigation should done all with one tool. When all the process had done digital forensic report click the button without spend long hours.

Connecting to The Drone ‘s USB: In many cases investigators get troubled when connecting USB port. It is impossible to the next generation. The only way is to conduct wireless imaging technology.

Standardization Issues: Drones are of modern technology and it is hard when it introduced into hardware, software and firmware, this gives a conclusion that different makers are free to make different products.


Drone forensics have not been along for long and the science of drone forensics can be a difficult beast to damage. With right digital forensic tools, methodology, approach and dedication a lot can be done. As new challenges arise, so other corresponding solutions thus allowing the law enforcement agencies to stay on top of their game.

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