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Aerial mapping of Macchu Pichu: Drone helps preserve archaeological treasure

December 27, 2015  - By 0 Comments
Two flights were conducted at 120 meters and 100 meters to gather data to help the Peruvian government protect the site from erosion and wear from tourism. (Photo: Trimble)

Two flights were conducted at 120 meters and 100 meters to gather data to help the Peruvian government protect the site from erosion and wear from tourism. (Photo: Trimble)

High up in the Peruvian Andes Mountains lies Machu Picchu, an Incan citadel built in the 15th century, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In the fall of 2014, Trimble demonstrated its UX5 Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) — along with the Trimble Business Center and Inpho UASMaster processing software — at the famed archaeological site.

Machu Picchu is under the threat of landslides and erosion — plus the site experiences heavy rains known to wash away roads. It has also seen an increase in tourism over the years.

As a consequence, the preservation of the landmark is a growing concern for the Peruvian government. Data captured by a fixed-wing UAS is expected to help the many organizations that govern and preserve the site to visualize and monitor the location.

Getting to Machu Picchu is a challenge in itself. A 3.5-hour train ride from the city of Cusco takes visitors almost 8,000 feet above sea level. When a Trimble team visited the site, access to Machu Picchu was arranged well in advance by its distribution partner Geosystems and the Peruvian Ministry of Culture.

Orthophoto of the Macchu Pichu site. (Image: Trimble)

Orthophoto of the Macchu Pichu site. (Image: Trimble)

The day of the flight, a small area on one of the terraces was cleared of tourists (but not local llamas) for the flight. Two flights were conducted at 120 meters and 100 meters for enhanced data. Along with Trimble and Geosystems representatives, local archaeologists and surveyors from the Ministry of Culture attended the flight, which went off without any challenges.

With the flight complete, Trimble and Geosystems went to work processing the data immediately in Trimble Business Center and Inpho UASMaster. Trimble Business Center allowed the data to be quickly processed into high-quality point clouds and orthophotos while Inpho UASMaster offers feature-rich photogrammetry workflows.

The following day, Trimble and Geosystems presented government officials with orthophotos and a 3D point cloud model.

This article is tagged with , , , , , and posted in Featured Stories, GIS News, Mapping, Technology, UAS/UAV
Tracy Cozzens

About the Author:

Senior Editor Tracy Cozzens joined GPS World magazine in 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.

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