Drone application in archaeology – advantages and utility

Introduction

Due to the fast growth of technology, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or drone systems are increasingly accessible and more efficient with a wide range of applicability. In this article we will expand the applicability and the benefits of drones in the field of archaeology.

Advantages

Key advantages of a drone

  • Efficiency – automatized operation saves time and ensures comparable results

  • High data quality – Advanced autopilot system and high resolution cameras ensure accurate data fidelity

  • Flexibility – Capturing and presenting data from impossible perspectives through classical methods

Animatie sit 360 - La Orizont

What can be done with the data collected by drones?

From the images collected by drones there are a number of data that can be generated. As an example, in this article we have a map with an accuracy of 0.4cm of an archaeological site discovered during the work on the south motorway of Timisoara, on the basis of which several analyzes were made.

Orthophotoplan

Ortofotoplan

An orthophotoplan is a very detailed overview created with the data captured by the drone. The orthophotoplan presented is georeferenced with ground control points and has a spatial resolution of 1.1cm/pixel.

As a results of its high accuracy, there can be made very accurate 2D measurements, for example between excavations where can be easily determined the relative location of the discovered bones or artifacts.

In addition, another benefit regarding the applicability in archaeology is the localization and organization of the excavations made, where the overall images offer a unique visual perspective on the site subtantially easing both the evidence and the presentation of the works.

Digital elevation model

OrtofotoplanDEM

Digital elevation model (DEM) is the digital representation of the earth’s surface and contains millions of altimetric observations. This type of model offers detailed perspective of all the unevenness present on the analyzed surface. The given model has a spatial resolution of 4.4cm/pixel.

Sectiune sapatura - La Orizont

The digital elevation model is very handy for elevation and section measurements. With the help of this model we can see exactly the profile of the excavation, so we can determine the exact depth at which the bones or artifacts were discovered. The depth of the excavation presented above is 1.6 meters.

Analiza masurare volum - La Orizont

Another utility is the calculation of the soil volume dislocated during digging. This is useful in showing how much was dug for the recovery of the artifact. For the excavation presented above, approximately 5 cubic meters were excavated.

Point cloud

Point cloud is a data set consisting of points in a three dimensional space triangulated based on images captured by the drone. In this case it is useful in determining the direct connections between objects or surfaces present at the archaeological site.

Based on point cloud analysis, fixed measurements can be made between all objects in a three dimensional space, implicitly between artifacts, bones or other discoveries. In this way, direct correlations ca be made between them in order to further determine other data such as site type, period, activity.

Model 3D

A 3D Model is a visual and mathematical representation of a surface or object in a three dimensional space. It allows you to view the site, bones or artifacts discovered from any angle.

Animatie model 3D - La Orizont

Although 3D model can also be used for measurements, they have the greatest added value in presenting results as well as virtual tours of the archaeological site. In the same way, the discoveries made can be scanned and presented, offering a better understanding of the site and its significance in the past. They can be viewed and overlaid on the 3D model at the location where they were found or can be used for a digital reconstruction.

Concluzii

Sunt multe aplicatii ale dronelor in arheologie care pot oferi perspective noi asupra sitului si obiectelor descoperite, totodata fiind eficiente – economisind timp in procesul de organizare si prezentare.

  • Measurements – 2D, 3D , sections and volumes

  • Evidence – adequate organization of discoveries and related locations

  • Remote analysis of the site, discoveries or ground status

  • 3D Models with high reliability

  • Virtual tour of the site or artifacts

The digital transformation of an archaeological site brings other advantages such as data reliability, remote collaborations between archaeologists, remote presentations, flexibility in decisions and most importantly in a time like nowadays, security.

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