A drone aircraft can acquire data for a 3-D map of an archaeological site in minutes that would take humans years. Cynthia Graber reports.
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Archaeology?s taking to the air. Researchers spent a month this summer testing a semi-autonomous unmanned aerial vehicle ? basically a semi-autonomous drone ? high in the Andes in Peru. The goal: to scan a colonial town from the 1500s that had been built over an Incan settlement, and then abandoned.
It?s a collaboration between Vanderbilt University archaeologist Steven Wernke and engineering professor Julie Adams. Adams tricked out a vehicle from Aurora Flight Sciences to include cameras and algorithms that allow the drone to achieve optimal flight patterns. The resulting detailed 3D map will be much more precise than high-resolution satellite images.
Here?s Steven Wernke: ?By our calculations this vehicle will be able to take imagery of an area in about 10-15 minutes that would take two or three entire field seasons using traditional methods.?
The system can fit into a backback. Once the researchers incorporate what they learned, they hope the technology can assist in the rapid cataloguing of a variety of archaeological sites, some of which are already being lost to the ravages of new developments and time.
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast]