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Eyes In The Sky Spot Pot


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Space will be the final frontier for busting marijuana grow operations in Canada now that police researchers are backing satellite technology that can uncover hidden cannabis plantations.

While RCMP weren't hot about the idea a few years ago, a study just completed by the Canadian Police Research Centre shows that police forces would be crazy not to use the technology, if they can afford it.

Staff Sgt. Brian Thiessen, who led the recent study in British Columbia, said he was initially told not to bother with the research since it had already been attempted and failed.

Using satellite and airborne imagery in the summer of 2006, police researchers were able to find three outdoor grow-ops for every one located with existing detection techniques.

Researchers learned they can easily differentiate the reflection patterns of marijuana from other vegetation, which could be concealing the illegal plants.


The finding improves on the previous study, which suggested satellite imagery couldn't distinguish between cannabis and other vegetation.

Thiessen said his research team found factual errors with the previous study.

The Canadian Police Research Centre partnered with the RCMP, Abbotsford police in B.C. and Titan Analysis Ltd. in the project.

Police researchers are carrying out further studies to determine how soon in a marijuana plant's growth that the satellite can detect it.

A common current approach to finding outdoor grow-ops involves police using air support to spot the plantations from above.

Each year in the National Capital Region, aerial patrols help officers on the ground locate the grow-ops. During a six-week campaign in the Ottawa area last summer and fall, police found nearly 40,000 marijuana plants.

Using high-resolution satellite imagery, researchers can now read a "spectral signature" from a marijuana plant and distinguish it from signatures of other plants.

Spying on drug operations using satellites isn't entirely new.


According to the police research centre, the United Nations uses the technique to monitor massive operations around the world, including in Afghanistan, Morocco, Myanmar, Laos, Peru, Colombia and Bolivia.

Thiessen said satellite photographs might not come cheap for Canadian police forces. It's likely that the services would compare the cost of their existing detection methods against the hi-tech option, he said.

Now that researchers have shown satellites can help locate grow-ops, they're studying other time-saving ways to help police find marijuana plantations.

Thiessen said researchers are also working on a project that will help police determine where marijuana can be grown geographically, thereby narrowing search patterns for the plant.

Newshawk: CoZmO - 420Magazine.com
Source: Canoe (Canada)
Copyright: 2007 Canoe Inc.
Website: CANOE -- CNEWS - Canada's Web Source For News And Information
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