The use of drones (UAVs) can provide new perspectives during archaeological research and excavations. These include reconnaissance, aerial photography, site documentation, mapping, 3D imagery, and photogrammetry. Large scale site patterns and lineaments, e.g. intaglio, can be more readily discernible at 30m or 50m AGL with UHD sensor imagery than on the ground. There also is big potential for other applications like site preservation, monitoring, and aerial remote sensing.
Drones have the potential to change methods of archaeological research as creative minds work to develop new methods and equipment that streamline data collection in the field. The emergence of the use of drones as an important archaeological tool is evidenced in the Society for American Archaeology’s UAV special edition (SAA Archaeological Record, March 2016).
- New Perspective – provides a valuable overview of a site
- Low Cost – comparable to imagery from satellites or manned aircraft
- Timeliness – imagery can provide quick insight that can result in better, more focused surveys or excavations
Resolution Comparison of site NV96MJM, Duck Flat NV. Courtesy of BLM Applegate Field Office, CA.