The New Drones Club

The military potential of unmanned flying ‘drones’ is well known. But what about their use in archaeology?

Julie Adams and Steven Wernke of Vanderbilt University with their SUAVe aerial device. Vanderbilt University/Anne RaynerA new mapping method, developed at Vanderbilt University’s Spatial Analysis Research Laboratory fits into a backpack and creates detailed aerial maps that can identify potential sites of archaeological interest during a single unmanned flight. Encouraged by the decreasing cost and increasing availability of unmanned vehicles, Vanderbilt University has developed mapping drones (above) that work with Geographical Information Systems (GIS) software in a bid to make new discoveries. Aerial mapping by drones provides the opportunity to gather information about ancient human structures, paths, waterways or burial sites that may otherwise remain unnoticed beneath vegetal growth, landslides, earthquakes and layers of human habitation. Similarly, aerial discoveries of domestic refuse or the distribution of settlements across a large area can be an important aid to  strategic excavations of time-sensitive sites and help preserve data about a lost or looted location.

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