SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association)
IN EARLY August, two small craft swooped over the ruins of Aphrodisias – the ancient Greek city of Aphrodite in Turkey, built in the 1st century BC. As well as precisely mapping the crumbling amphitheatre, the drones also gathered infrared images, looking for buried features of the ancient civilisation.
The craft belong to Drone Adventures, a non-profit organisation in Lausanne, Switzerland, that specialises in exploring the use of drones in new applications, from wildlife management to geography.
The organisation uses drones called eBees, which have a 1-metre wingspan and weigh about half a kilogram. They follow a pre-planned route over an area, mapping as they go.
Data that the drones gathered was used to quickly build an accurate 3D model of the ruins above ground. This allowed archaeologists to precisely measure the size of buildings, or the width of ancient streets without expensive surveying. Drone Adventures president Adam Klaptocz says the work the craft perform in a few hours would take months using traditional techniques. Researchers at the Austrian Archaeological Institute in Vienna, which funded the work, are now analysing the infrared data.
The eBees also scouted for overlooked features at the ruins of the city of Ephesus, about 120 kilometres west of Aphrodisias. This city held the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. “One hope with infrared is that you can find areas with a bit less vegetation, in a pattern, which would indicate a structure close to the surface that you can’t see visually,” says Klaptocz.
Klaptocz says his group may revisit the ruins after fitting the eBees with thermal cameras. “Building material doesn’t get hot in the same way as the surrounding dirt,” he says. “If you have walls or a feature underground, thermal cameras may be able to see it.”