Researchers Use Drones and Lasers to Map Out Ancient Maya Sites

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Most people think that archaeology technology peaked with spades and Indiana Jones's whip; but a team of researchers has categorically disproved that idea (and, by the way, mapped out some Maya temples in the process).

The team, using a few remote-controlled quadrotors, managed to get enough aerial imagery to stitch together a 3-D rendering of El Zotz, a Mesoamerican archaeological site — despite the challenges involved with operating quadrotors in a rainforest, amidst bugs, rats, bats, poisonous snakes, and, y'know, rain.


The team plans to be back with a LIDAR-equipped drone — a device that should allow them to get accurate 3-D mapping of entire areas of rainforest, even despite the obstacles presented by the trees:

"When you shoot lasers down through trees, some points of the temple sites are going to be visible, the same way some areas of the sky are going to be visible through the tree canopy when you're looking up."


It isn't the first time that drones have been used to map out ancient sites — and with the increasing accessibility of the technology (and the documented archaeological benefits of being able to see things from the air), it's a trend that's set to increase. Still, the full write-up of the researcher's trip to the rainforest (and their battles with the local wildlife!) are definitely worth a read in full. [Phys Org]