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Minnesota Department of Transportation
Public lands, including MnDOT rights of way, are often the site of encampments for unsheltered individuals. After encampments are abandoned, structures must be removed for safety reasons.

This process can be hazardous. Dangerous materials, such as propane cylinders, intravenous needles, chemicals and waste material, present dangers to maintenance crews. Additionally, while law enforcement attempts to verify there are no people in the encampment, a significant hazard to MnDOT staff is a person who either did not leave or returned to the site after it was presumed abandoned.

To address this need, a technological solution was sought that allows maintenance staff to determine the presence of a person inside a structure from a distance and without disturbing the individual. Thermal imaging (far infrared) cameras offer a possible solution as they can clearly show heat sources not normally visible to the naked eye.

Based on the work of an earlier Transportation Research Synthesis (“Remote Sensing in Maintenance Work”), the focus of this project was to assesses the performance of a professional-grade thermal camera in a variety of simulated encampment environments and at a “live” encampment to determine its ability to reliably reveal the presence of a person inside a tent or similar structure.
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