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Drones in Archeology: How can aerial thermography help to discover our past

drones in archeology

It may sound surprisingly, but archeologists around the world are increasingly discovering that the best way to discover the past it´s not to dig in the ground, but to look on it from above. The idea is nothing new though. It´s known since the 70´s that infrared technology or thermography can be very helpful regarding surveying areas, which are cover by vegetation etc. However, it used to be possible only with conventional helicopters or satellites, which is connected with many difficulties and costs. Thanks to the contemporary UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) technology can more and more archeologists and surveyors profit from benefits of aerial thermography. Drones in archeology have many exciting abilities and advantages, which we would like to demonstrate in today article.

A 1,000 years old village discovered with drones

Probably the most famous mission where were used drones in archeology happend two years ago in New Mexico. Dr. John Kantner (University of North Florida) and Dr. Jesse Casana (University of Arkansas) used a multicopter CineStar8 with an infrared camera to survey a remote area in this region. As the UAV application has shown, there used to be a Puebloan village about 1,000 years old. Thanks to the remote controlled aircraft and infrared imaging could have been captured and revealed details of the village easily then from the ground. What is more exciting, the mission´s results showed unique architecture and unknown structures. The researchers said that their methodology is easily replicable and can produce visual data in a same quality as than traditional archeological geophysics. Moreover, it´s faster and can be done in larger areas with lower cost.

Noninvasive research techniques in archeology: revealing the past without disruption

Laser scanning, UAV photography, ground-penetrating radar, all these methods are changing the way of contemporary archeologic research. Another great example of how can be drones in archeology useful can be found in Portugal. Here in Ammaia (southern Portugal), researchers are using this cutting-edge, noninvasive technology to study the Roman ruins. The output from this research is quite astounding: a three-dimensional sketch, showing in detail what the town, founded in the first century A.D., would look like in its current environment.

Drones are helping to discover Neolitic sites in the east Jordan

Even in the east Jordan, not far from the north borders of Saudi Arabia, are drones helping in archeology. The desolate landscape of the Black Desert is definitely not the place where you would like to dig in the ground manually. On the other hand, a small drone used by an Oriental Institute team can capture images of the landscape below easily and effectively. The discovered details of Neolitic sites were missed by archeologists for years. The data were further used in photogrammetry—integrating information from a series of photos— in order to produce a detailed, three-dimensional map of a landscape occupied 8,000 years ago. Captured data also help to clarify a problem of antiquities looting.

If you are interested in drones in archeology, UAV mapping and thermography, maybe you should visit the 2nd International Conference of Aerial Archeology in Roma, Italy. It is taking place from 03 February to 06 February 2016. Anyway, if you desire to start your own research right now and looking for some thermographic system, we would like to recommend you Workswell AIRvison as the best. It´s a unique thermal imaging system for unmanned aircraft, a compact system that combines thermal camera, a digital camera and a control unit.