By Amy Kraft
Posting in Technology
Researchers are developing a new system to map archaeological sites using drone planes that can create 3D maps in minutes.
Gone are the days of traveling to archaeological sites over the course of years to map them out with measuring tape, cameras and theodolites.
Now, researchers are developing a new system to map archaeological sites using drone planes that can create 3D maps of an area in minutes.
Researchers at Vanderbilt University are currently testing out a backpack-sized unmanned aerial vehicle that flies over ruins in Peru capturing images of the landscape.
The project is a joint collaboration between archaeologist Steven Wernke and engineering professor Julie A. Adams.
To use the Semi-autonomous Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (SUAVe), a researcher simply specifies the area that needs to be surveyed and then launches the system. After the SUAVe collects all of the images using a built-in software system, it downloads the images and assembles them into a larger mosaic that gets transformed into a map.
"It can take two or three years to map one site in two dimensions," Wernke said in a statement. "The SUAVe (pronounced SWAH-vey) system should transform how we map large sites that take several seasons to document using traditional methods. It will provide much higher resolution imagery than even the best satellite imagery, and it will produce a detailed three-dimensional model."
Wernke thinks it is important to catalog archaeological sites as quickly as possible since the landscape is continuously changing.
"The SUAVe system should be a way to create a digital archival registry of archaeological sites before it's too late," he said. "It will likely create the far more positive problem of having so much data that it will take some time go through it all properly."
Researchers say that the SUAVe could also be used to track the progress of environmental changes including global warming and as a tool for mapping out a disaster site.
"The device would be an excellent tool for evaluating the site of a major crisis such as Sept. 11 to decide how to deploy lifesaving resources more effectively," Adams said.
Photo via Vanderbilt University
Aug 3, 2012