(1University of Applied Sciences Dresden, Germany / 2HTW Dresden, Germany)

Keywords: autonomous systems, UAVs, 3D site recording, archaeology

Service providers such as Amazon and DHL have been announcing their intentions of deploying autonomous drones for goods delivery. Rapid progress in robotics and sensor data processing has incited vehicle manufacturers to develop and bring to market an increasing number of assistive systems. The promise behind such technology is that computers will be able to take the burden of having to operate and navigate vehicles from human pilots.
The implications for archaeology are clear: Autonomous (or semi-autonomous) UAVs would be able to record large sites efficiently, with minimal human intervention. This would allow not only one-time recordings, but also continuous monitoring of sites at minimal cost.
But how well does today’s cutting edge technology really work, and, most importantly for us, can we adapt it to produce autonomous systems in archaeology? What are the real world limitations of this approach? What additional planning tools and safety measures are necessary when using autonomous UAVs for archaeological prospection and site recording?
This paper will give an overview of current technologies and discuss the development process for a semi-autonomous UAV within the framework. We will present the results of recent aerial prospections and technologies that have the potential of becoming part of archaeology’s standard toolkit for site recording in the near future.