US drone to map ancient Peru ruins

Aug 10, 2012
Tourists watch llamas at the ruins of Machu Pichu in Cuzco in 2005. Archeologists in Peru plan to use a US-made drone to survey ancient Andean ruins, in the latest civilian application of the unmanned aerial vehicles used to hunt militants in the world's war zones.

Archeologists in Peru plan to use a US-made drone to survey ancient Andean ruins, in the latest civilian application of the unmanned aerial vehicles used to hunt militants in the world's war zones.

The device, which can fit in a backpack, is due to be tested later this month at the ruins of the 16th-century Spanish colonial town Mawchu Llacta, some 13,450 feet (4,100 meters) above sea level.

The Skate Small Unmanned Aerial System will take only about 10 minutes to map the massive site the size of 25 football fields, saving the researchers months of time-consuming cataloging, they said.

"Mawchu Llacta, with its exceptionally well-preserved layout and architecture, provides an ideal case study," anthropologist Steven Wernke and engineering professor Julie Adams of Vanderbilt University told AFP in an email.

"But the scale and complexity of it necessitated a novel approach to mapping. A UAV-based solution seemed the most fitting, since it would enable fast and detailed documentation of standing architecture and walls."

The researchers, who want to test Skate in different environments, developed software to collect and process data rapidly, with the aim of providing a low-cost solution to that is easy to use.

Drones have mostly been used for military operations but could also have other uses, such as tracking the advance of global warming and helping first responders provide relief at a disaster site.

If it works, the system would provide the tools to build three-dimensional maps of world ruins, building a major digital archive for researchers.

"As UAVs become more inexpensive and ubiquitous, they will become less and less the exclusive domain of state power," Wernke and Adams said.

"This project is part of that process, as it will develop free, for flight and imagery capture."

Explore further: College students use 'smart' technology in football helmets to detect injuries

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

A drone for security and safety (w/Video)

May 29, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- European researchers have developed a small robotic drone capable of helping save lives in emergency situations or preventing terrorist attacks in urban areas.

Unmanned planes look for Katrina survivors

Sep 15, 2005

Unmanned, small aircraft were being used this week to search for survivors of Hurricane Katrina in the first domestic use of such surveillance vehicles.

Recommended for you

Building a machine that sorts candy colors with iPhone

Dec 23, 2014

The very idea of a machine being able to color-sort M&Ms teases an inventor's imagination and interest in machines, electronics and programming. A person with a website called "reviewmylife" had heard about ...

Laser technology aids CO2 storage capabilities

Dec 23, 2014

DOE's National Energy Technology Laboratory is attracting private industry attention and winning innovation awards for harnessing the power of lasers to monitor the safe and permanent underground storage ...

FAA, industry launch drone safety campaign

Dec 22, 2014

Alarmed by increasing encounters between small drones and manned aircraft, drone industry officials said Monday they are teaming up with the government and model aircraft hobbyists to launch a safety campaign.

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Birger
2.5 / 5 (2) Aug 10, 2012
Would it not be simpler to drag a tethered ballon with cameras around the area of interest? Not that I mind the "coolness" factor of robot archaeology :-)
Shifty0x88
not rated yet Aug 12, 2012
Well it may be simpler, but it wouldn't be as efficient(you try walking 25 football fields in 10 minutes), and you would have to either let out air, or keep the balloon down to take close-up images, whereas you could do another pass in 10 minutes at a different height.

I think this is a great solution to a tough problem. UAVs are good at the 3 Ds: Dumb, dull or dangerous, and this is definitely dull.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.