Monday, October 17, 2011

Tiny Drones Can Uncover Ancient Royal Tombs

A drone in the miniature air help archaeologists to capture images to create a 3-D model of an ancient burial mound in Russia, scientists say.

Archaeological sites are often remote and difficult areas. As such it can be difficult to achieve and a map with archaeologists often have limited budgets. Scientists are using drones to broaden their views in places difficult to access.

"There is a great opportunity with this method," said Marijn researcher Hendrickx, a geographer at the University of Ghent in Belgium.

The test machine in a remote region of Russia called Tuekta was a four-helix "quadrocopter". The MD4-200 batteries Microdrone That is small - the rotor shaft is about 27 inches (70 cm) - and weighs about 35 ounces (1.000 grams), it was easy to carry, and investigators said it was very easy to control, stabilize and maintain at all times at a given height and position in order to do something else. The engine also has generated almost no vibration, they added, so that photographs taken by the camera is mounted on the relatively strong. According to the wind, temperature, and its payload, the maximum flight time UAV is about 20 minutes.

Tuekta the Altai Mountains in which Russia, China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan come together. The researchers have not discovered the mounds in 2300 is 2800 years and up to 250 feet (76 meters) wide.

These mounds, called "Kurgan" probably belonged to the chiefs or princes among the Scythians, a nomadic people known for their horsemanship, which had a rich, powerful empire. The archaeology excavation of some of these extraordinary treasures revealed artifacts of gold and other preserved by permafrost.

About 200 mounds have been discovered in Tuekta, located along the river, Ursula. Heart of the site appears to have been once a series of five monumental Scythian burial mounds with diameters between 140 and 250 meters (42 and 76 m). Unfortunately, "in this field of study, most of the mounds have been destroyed," said Hendrickx.

The test area chosen by the researchers measured approximately 1,000 feet 330 feet (300,100 m), including five gigantic mounds and dozens of smaller structures. Drone flew at a height of 130 feet (40 meters) to examine more objectively the mound.

The lightweight nature of Microdrone was a problem at times. "In the field, we had to deal with the wind increasing," said Hendrickx. "At one point even lost radio contact with the unmanned aircraft - which led to a race between the mounds."

However, researchers have gathered enough data to drones to create a digital elevation map of the site and a 3-D model of the mound.

"The 3-D model we created gives us the possibility to calculate the volume of the Kurgan" he told LiveScience Hendrickx. "With this volume and its specific dimensions, the original form of the kurgan can be reconstructed."

Archaeologists have begun using unmanned aircraft in the air more often in the past ten years, including in Peru, Austria, Spain, Turkey and Mongolia. The resulting maps can help archaeologists to see the full image of a site where aerial or satellite images are difficult to obtain updated Hendrickx said.

Researchers are now experimenting with more microdrones that can carry more weight.

"It will be possible to use, for example, infrared cameras, or even a radar system," said Hendrickx. "This can help to see things we can not see with our eyes."

The scientists detailed their findings in the November issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science.

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