Detection of Single Burials Using Multispectral Drone Data: Three Case Studies

Benjamin Rocke*, Alastair Ruffell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)
207 Downloads (Pure)


Natural burials are interments where a body is buried without embalming fluids or coffins. These burial grounds are ideal locations for retrospective multispectral analysis of non-conventional single burials as the age and location of each grave is documented. The detection of disturbed soil under the influence of human decomposition has been well-studied, but lacks the temporal component needed for characterising simulated clandestine burials. A critical gap in the literature is how these burials re-vegetate and to what extent soil profiles re-establish over years or decades. Multispectral drone data from three natural burial sites in southern U.K. are documented here, with trends in re-vegetation from bare soil to full recovery in graves as old as 2005. As with many burial detection techniques, environmental influence is a limiting variable to universal use of this method. However, we suggest a timeline over which single burial sites in this location reach detection limits and possible reasons for variations in these limits.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)72-87
JournalForensic Sciences
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jan 2022


  • remote sensing; forensics; UAV’s; multispectral data; clandestine graves; natural burials; single burials; NDVI; human decomposition


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