Remote Sensing in Unsheltered Encampments

Status:  Complete
Report Date:  02/24/2023


Homeless encampments along Minnesota roadsides create safety hazards for camp residents and MnDOT staff members who need to clean or maintain rights of way. To ensure everyone’s dignity and safety, MnDOT explored new tools that would help staff identify if people were inside tents or otherwise not readily visible to avoid unnecessary or surprising disturbances. Building on previous efforts by MnDOT’s Homeless Encampment Team, investigators tested a thermal imaging camera to determine its ability to detect the presence of a person inside a tent or other shelter. The team found that when outside temperatures are cold, the temperature difference inside an occupied tent will likely appear on a thermal image. When outside temperatures are warmer, however, the temperature differences are not as significant, and individuals are undetectable with the camera. MnDOT will continue to develop tools for prioritizing safety in homeless encampments within transportation rights of way.

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