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Drone aids archaeology in Scotland

April 22, 2019  - By

The National Trust for Scotland commissioned Glasgow-based GeoGeo to carry out a drone survey of the inner Hebridean islands of Canna and Sanday in November 2018. Using an ultra-high-definition camera, the GeoGeo team not only pinned down the exact locations of archaeological features, but also revealed new archaeological sites.

Over five days,the drone navigated 400 kilometers to capture 4,000 images at a 3-centimeter resolution. After processing, the images created a minutely detailed 3D map capable of being used in a 3D printer to create scale models of the islands. With more than 420 million data points, it is currently the world’s largest complete island dataset captured by drone, claims GeoGeo founder Paul Georgie.

Screenshot: GeoCue

Screenshot: GeoCue

“We were blown away by the results and the possibilities of this technology,” said Derek Alexander, head of Archaeology at the Trust. “We’ve previously recorded archaeology on Canna and Sanday which proves that there were inhabitants as far back as the Neolithic, but this survey gives us information and detail we just haven’t had until now. We’ve been able to obtain exact plots of known sites, but also recorded the extensive traces of cultivation, such as rig and furrow field systems that range in age from the Bronze Age onwards.”

Screenshot: GeoCue

Screenshot: GeoCue

The cameras and software also will be able to help with seabird counts and habitat and coastal erosion monitoring, which are currently expensive and labor intensive, Alexander said. The trust will use the maps to update archaeological records and prepare for future groundwork and excavations.

About the Author: Tracy Cozzens

Senior Editor Tracy Cozzens joined GPS World magazine in 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.

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