Drones help National Trust for Scotland map out islands

Using an ultra-high-definition camera, the trust can create a detailed 3-D map of the islands

A Scottish charity has turned to drone and digital mapping technology as part of an archaeological project.

The National Trust for Scotland commissioned the Glasgow-based company GeoGeo to carry out a drone survey of two islands it owns – Cann and Sanday in the Inner Hebrides – using an ultra-high-definition camera with the aim of identifying the exact locations of archaeological features.

The images, which have also revealed previously unknown archaeology, have been processed to create a detailed 3-D map of the islands that can be used in a 3-D printer to create scale models of the islands.

The trust is now studying the detailed maps produced and will use them to update archaeological records and to prepare for future groundwork and excavations.

Derek Alexander, head of archaeology at the National Trust for Scotland, said: "We’ve previously recorded archaeology on Canna and Sanday that proves there were inhabitants as far back as the Neolithic age, but this survey gives us information and detail we just haven’t had until now.

"The detail is simply astounding. Aerial surveys for archaeology have been around since the end of the Second World War, but this new technology takes everything into a completely new realm, being considerably more detailed, affordable and flexible.

"My colleagues in the trust were blown away by the results and the possibilities of this technology. The cameras and the ‘self-learning’ software will be able to help us do things such as seabird counts, as well as habitat and coastal erosion monitoring, that are currently expensive and labour-intensive."

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