Aerial Archaeology: How Drones Changed History

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Drone use is expanding around the world, as more people realise its potential within a wide variety of sectors and scenarios. From Amazon developing their own aerial parcel delivery system, to UAVs being used to observe and monitor wildlife from safe and non-intrusive distances, drones are increasingly being relied upon to improve service, industry and research. Archaeology sites the world over are feeling the benefits of drones – here’s why:


Drones and archaeology

UAVs are capable of scanning large areas of land in search of ancient civilisations, centuries-old structures and long abandoned settlements. Incorporating the latest technology, they can help to uncover entire historic sites that may have otherwise remained hidden.

Remarkably, such sites don’t need to be above ground in order for drones to locate them; thermal imaging can be used for detection. Materials such as stone cool at different rates throughout the course of the day in comparison to the soil or sand they may be buried in. Since drones are capable of combing vast areas quickly and efficiently, a lot of ground can be searched at various times in a cost effective manner, helping to find sites it would not have been possible to detect at another time of the day.

Non-Invasive Site Research

Drones can be used to search sites in a non-invasive way, helping to preserve them. Digging and other invasive methods can sometimes destroy elements of a site, whereas a drone travelling above ground doesn’t interfere with an area in this way. Instead, it can take high resolution photos and use state-of-the-art mapping software such as PIX4D to capture said areas. The levels that UAVs are capable of reaching and the angles at which they can fly means sites can be searched extensively in ways that would otherwise prove very difficult and highly expensive.

LiDAR Technology ForĀ Mapping Sites

Additionally, drones can also be incorporated with the latest LiDAR technology to further enhance archaeological searches. LiDAR uses a laser to send light pulses to a surface and then measures how long it takes for the light to return to source. As constant light pulses are projected, a complex surface map of a particular site can be created.

As drone use begins to take off globally and within archaeology, the possibilities of what UAVs could help to uncover is a very exciting prospect. Find out more here.

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