Remote Sensing Archaeological Sites through Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (U.A.V.) Imaging

Team Members: Cornelius Holness, Tatyana Matthews, Khaliq Satchell

Mentors: Edward Swindell, Dr. Malcom LeCompte

Advances in technology and lowering cost make drones, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (U.A.V.), appealing platforms for remote sensing. Data acquired through these technologies have broad appeal and widespread application across many industries and disciplines. Archaeologists have used aerial imagery derived from many sources as a means of identifying sites and ancient landscapes, yet this imagery has traditionally been acquired through satellite and aircraft platforms making cost and time a primary concern. For this reason, the availability of inexpensive U.A.V.s afford archaeologists access to obtaining their own data at a fraction of the cost. However, are they effective? For the purposes of this study, the DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ UAV, along with supporting software, was evaluated for its ability to create visible light imagery and elevation datasets useful in remote sensing archaeological sites. To test its effectiveness, a site was chosen in Bertie County, North Carolina discovered in 2007. The Salmon Creek site (31BR264), as it is known, is partially understood from previous archaeological studies as the location of a 16th Century Native American village. This previous work provided a foundation which our results could be tested and evaluated against and proved important to our interpretation of the data. The project not only demonstrated the effectiveness of the U.A.V. to acquire usable datasets, but contributed to the ongoing research.

Keywords: archaeology, aerial imagery, DJI Phantom 2 Vision+, drone, remote sensing, U.A.V.