Can you describe what a microdrone
Imagine a small type of helicopter, almost two metres long, with four rotors that keep the aircraft stable in the air. Underneath hangs a digital camera that shoots the images we later use to create 3D models of archaeological sites.
The microdrone has a GPS on board, so it automatically follows a configured route. It’s a fantastic tool for non-destructive analyses, to avoid digging at a site.
What are the advantages opposed to
other methods of aerial photography?
Obviously, an aeroplane or satellite cannot take pictures from low altitudes of around two metres above the ground. The microdrone can even hover low above a spot for a while, which makes its images far more detailed. We often used a hot-air balloon in the past, but then you also have to take the wind conditions into account. Furthermore, using a microdrone is less expensive than the other methods and it will be immediately deployable when we need it.
But it is not yet a common tool for
No, we are the first archaeological department in the Benelux and France with a microdrone. By renting one for eight years, Ghent University is positioning itself as a European frontrunner in the use of new technology.
Have you launched it in the air
Yes, we have deployed it in Austria to reconstruct the image of a civil amphitheatre at the Roman site of Carnuntum. This is where I am working during my research project at the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology in Vienna. After 20 minutes of photographing, we were able to develop a 3D model in four hours. With classic tools, this task would take us several days or even weeks.
Will we see the microdrone at work in
Flanders as well?
Definitely: Many departments are showing an interest in its abilities. A geography doctorate student will, for example, make a 3D model of the Sint-Baafs abbey in Ghent with it, to show how it once looked.