Drone-assisted archeology

We are on highway A1 near Lausanne, Switzerland. Under the asphalt, an archaeological dig is underway on an ancient Gallo-Roman site. It’s a long, time-consuming job, which has been made easier in recent times thanks to new technology.

Archaeologist Olivier Feihl is making a 3D map of the dig using a drone equipped with a camera.

“It takes a photo every 1.5 or 2 metres to make sure the whole surface is covered, so that the photos will overlap, enabling us to measure the archaeological dig in 3D,” he tells euronews.

It’s a true revolution for archaeologists and helps them save a lot of time.

“Before we had this kind of technology, everything was done by hand,” says Sebastien Freudiger, who is also working on the project. “Each wall was drawn by hand, each layer was drawn by hand. Now, this new technology enables us to do all of that on a computer.”

It takes the drone just ten minutes to take all the snaps needed. They are then processed by computer and transformed into highly precise 3D data.

Oliver Feihl explains how the technology works:

“The photos are downloaded into a photogrammetry programme, which allows us to assemble them. Each blue rectangle you see on the screen represents the position of a photo taken of the site. Then, thanks to GPS, we’re able to establish a metric scale and a reference horizon for this 3D model,” he says.

It’s not only a precious tool for archaeologists but also one which benefits the greater public.

“It’s a very rich source of data for us. It also means that we can make these pictures more accessible to the public, put them on the internet for everyone to see how the dig is progressing,” he tells euronews.

Robert Michel is a prehistoric ceramic specialist. He also has a passion for new technology. He wants to share his passion with visitors.

“An archaeologist is able to stand in front of a pile of ruins and imagine what it used to look like in 3D, to see the different rooms of a Roman villa, for example, and what they were used for. That’s not the case for ordinary people, who just see a pile of stones and nothing beyond that,” he says.

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