Post-Blast Investigative Tools for Structural Forensics by 3D Scene Reconstruction and Advanced Simulation

Reaction Frame with Enclosure

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Sponsor: National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice

Status: Active – Updates to be posted throughout 2016 as test and analysis results are processed

Project Summary

Natural and manmade explosive incidents have become increasingly more commonplace with an average of over 4000 incidents occurring per year.  In the criminal justice response to such events, the determination of the weight, composition, and epicenter of accidental and malicious explosions is of foremost concern during the post-blast forensic investigation.  The proposed research will leverage low-cost 3D scanning, scene reconstruction, and nondestructive evaluation tools to characterize structural and non-structural building components in the post-blast environment that serve as silent “witnesses” to the blast shock wave. This applied research will yield powerful, high fidelity surface reconstruction of scenes that will enhance techniques for estimating important characteristics about the charge size and location, while being as technologically-accessible and user-friendly as conventional photography and videography tools used by current investigators.  To complement this disruptive technology, the proposed research will develop the first blast dynamics simulator for post-blast forensic investigation to facilitate physics-based testing of investigator hypotheses against physical evidence. Using computational methods, the project will explore how such simulation codes could be used alongside the low-cost 3D scanning measurements to yield automated routines for reconstructing information on explosive charge weight, composition, and epicenter from deformation, fracture, fragmentation, and debris formation of building components.  The project leverages an existing partnership with the City of Gastonia Police Department and Bomb Squad to facilitate field experimentation and verification of the proposed technologies and methods at the UNC Charlotte Infrastructure Security and Emergency Responder Research and Training (ISERRT) Facility.  Furthermore, a mature collaborative relationship with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) will provide a platform for demonstrating the approach in a real-world post-blast investigation course.  This unique opportunity also maximizes the dissemination of the research results to the criminal justice and law enforcement community to promote technological replacement of current rudimentary, yet scientifically grounded observational techniques.  The project will impact criminal justice research and practice by producing a significant experimental dataset evaluating this emerging low-cost technology, software codes and applied validation studies to promote a blast dynamic simulator for post-blast forensics analogous to the Fire Dynamics Simulator used in post-fire forensics, and a method for rapid, automated reconstruction of the explosive characteristics and epicenter from structural and non-structural physical evidence.


Industry Support

Support for the design of the structural façade panel reaction structure as well as donation of materials, fabrication, and transportation of the reaction structure was provided by GRATEC (Fort Mill, SC) and Union Glass and Metal, Inc. (Fort Mill, SC).  The development of this research infrastructure, critical for the experimental component of the research effort, is greatly appreciated by the project team.


Funding Acknowledgement and Disclaimer

This Web site is funded through a grant from the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.  Neither the U.S. Department of Justice nor any of its components operate, control, are responsible for, or necessarily endorse, this Web site (including, without limitation, its content, technical information, and policies, and any services or tools provided).