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January 1 2013

Drones Accelerate Archaeological Site Mapping


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.

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