The search for evidence into the disappearance of five-year-old Calgary boy Nathan O'Brien and his grandparents now involves more sophisticated technology — a specialized helicopter normally used in the oilfields.

It has been three weeks since Nathan, and Kathy and Alvin Liknes were found to be missing from the Parkhill home where they were last seen, and intense searches for the family are still underway.

Calgary police say they suspect the three have been killed and have laid two charges of first-degree murder, related to the grandparents, and one charge of second-degree murder.


Aerial data collected from the helicopter can detect any sort of ground disturbance at a very high resolution. (Vieworx)

"To think that someone could do that is just … there's a lot of motivating factors and obviously the family is first and foremost. We want them found," said Greg Head, whose brother owns Vieworx, a specialized aerial referencing company with equipment that produces high-resolution still photos and 360-degree imagery

Head is a family friend of the O'Briens, and says he and his brother are determined to do all they can to help the family find out what happened to their loved ones.

Vieworx, based out of Grande Prairie, Alta., collects data from the ground by way of a helicopter using cutting-edge technology.

It can see beyond crops and trees, and detect any sort of ground disturbance at a very high resolution — the type of evidence that most interests police.

High-resolution view from above

The helicopter is normally used in the oilfields but over the weekend, Head, his brother and other company specialists spent hours flying over the Airdrie acreage that has been the subject of a massive police search over the past two weeks.

They covered a radius of nearly 10 kilometres and the data they collected is being reviewed by police.

"It's like Google Earth, but like shooting Google Earth right now at a very high resolution," said Head. "It's a way to help police look back through where they searched and if there's anything interesting, zoom right in."

The National Research Council also had a plane flying over the same areas.

Police said the two technologies are complementary, and while it's too early to tell if the flights will produce results in the search, Head says he is determined to keep supporting the O'Briens in whatever way he and his brother can.

"We want to find them and bring them back to their families," he said. "That's what I want more than anything."

To get a better sense of how Vieworx's technology works, click on the video below