Drone Mapping Creates Digital Record of Endangered Archaeological Sites

Research Group Uses DroneDeploy to Create a 3D-Printed Model of Ecuador’s Pucará of Salitre

Mar 1, 2017 · 7 min read
Team members using drones to map the Pucará of Salitre

Mapping the Pucará of Salitre

Built toward the end of the expansion of the Inca empire, the Pucará of Salitre is the site of Inca and Pre-Inca fortress ruins — a series of manmade terraces, ditches and walls built in a concentric circle atop a hill. The biggest concern for archeologists is that this hill is located on the Northern slope of the active Cotopaxi Volcano. The volcano is classed as one of the most dangerous in the world, and based on its history, it is due for another major eruption. If this happens, there is a good chance the large glaciers located on the volcano’s flanks will rapidly melt, causing mudslides that could damage or completely cover important sites like the Pucará of Salitre and sixty-seven others that have been identified in the region. Benoit and his team members realize that if they don’t work quickly to create maps and models of these sites, then a record of their existence could be lost forever.

A total of sixty-eight archaeological sites are in danger of being damaged if the Cotopaxi volcano erupts.

Drones Offer Faster, Less Invasive Option for Archaeologists

Although it seems impossible to anyone immersed in the world of UAVs, the go-to method that aerial archaeologists use to document a site like this is kites. As in: program a camera to automatically take pictures, strap it to an ordinary beach-flying kite and let it loose. Sometimes they use helium balloons or helikites, but the general idea is the same. Most archeological sites are just too small for manned aircraft photography to be feasible. A ground survey is sometimes an option, but it is time consuming and runs the risk of causing damage to a fragile site.

Orthomosaic map of the Pucará of Salitre

3D-Printed Models and Infrared Sensors Provide Exciting Opportunities for Analysis

Benoit and his team are especially excited about the amount of data they can capture with drone mapping technology. They hope this information will be used both for scientific research and also to help the public recognize the beauty of these sites and how important it is to preserve them.

3D model of the Pucará of Salitre, created in DroneDeploy

Research Team Plans to Use Drone Mapping for Further Collaboration

With the success of this project, the Aerial Digital Archeology and Preservation research group hopes to show that drone mapping is a viable way to record and analyze archeological sites. Eventually, they plan to train and empower local archeologists to continue this work and ultimately create a worldwide database of endangered archaeological sites that can be used for preservation and study.

Where to Learn More

If you’re interested in learning how to make a 3D model using DroneDeploy, or looking for tips and tricks to improve your models, be sure to check out our Beginner Webinar Clinic. You’ll find a great discussion on best practices for creating drone-generated 3D models and much more.

Get Started with DroneDeploy

Want to learn how DroneDeploy can help your business? Visit www.dronedeploy.com to start your free trial or request a consultation with one of our team members. The DroneDeploy mobile application is available for free download for both iOS and Android devices.

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DroneDeploy is the leading cloud software platform for commercial drones. Learn more at www.dronedeploy.com


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DroneDeploy is the leading cloud software platform for commercial drones.

DroneDeploy's Blog

DroneDeploy is the leading cloud software platform for commercial drones. Learn more at www.dronedeploy.com