Sensors and satellites deployed to save Pompeii

Apr 03, 2014
The House of Neptune seen in the ancient Roman city of Pompeii on March 18, 2014

Ground sensors and satellites will be deployed in a new bid to keep the ancient Roman city of Pompeii from crumbling following a series of recent collapses at the sprawling and long-neglected site near Naples.

Italian aerospace and defence giant Finmeccanica on Thursday said it was donating the to the culture ministry in a 1.7 million euro ($2.3 million) project entitled "Pompeii: Give it a Future".

The main aims are to assess "risks of hydrogeological instability" at the sprawling site, boost security and test the solidity of structures, as well as set up an early warning system to flag up possible collapses.

Finmeccanica said the project would last three years and that the results of satellite monitoring of a network of wireless sensors installed around the Roman ruins would be made available via the Internet.

Security guards will be supplied with special radio equipment as well as smartphone apps to improve communication that can pinpoint their position and the type of intervention required, Finmeccanica said.

Much of the technology is being provided by Finmeccanica subsidiary Selex ES, which also supplies electronic warfare equipment and drones to the military.

"We are offering our technology for the service of the country and its heritage," Finmeccanica's chief executive Alessandro Pansa told reporters in Rome.

Pompeii is the second most visited archaeological site in Italy after the Colosseum and the Roman Forum in Rome, with around 2.5 million visitors every year.

Conservation workers last year began a 105-million-euro makeover of the UNESCO World Heritage landmark, funded by the European Union to the tune of 41.8 million euros.

The project is seen as crucial to the survival of Pompeii after a series of collapses at the 44-hectare site in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius—the volcano that destroyed the city in 79 AD.

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