Research since 2012: Archaeocopter

The idea of using UAVs equipped with video cameras and artificial intelligence in archaeology and heritage management was first conceived by Dr. Benjamin Ducke and Prof. Dr. Marco Block-Berlitz in 2012. Cultural resources such as archaeological sites and old town centres are under incessant pressure from land-use and property development. While resources for heritage management and conservation have been stagnant at best for a long time, technological developments in image-based 3D reconstruction have been fast-paced, especially in the field of computer vision. At the same time, robustness and affordability of ultralight UAVs have reached a point where this class of hardware can become an integrated part of the standard toolset for archaeological site recording.

The project Archaeocopter was officially initiated in collaboration with Prof. Dr. Raúl Rojas at Berlin's Freie Universität (Free University) in September 2012. It has been generously funded by the Saxon State Ministery for Science and the Arts (SMWK) since March 2013. Research is being conducted in close cooperation with Archaeological Heritage Office in Saxony and the German Archaeological Insitute (DAI), as well as international partners. The primary aim is to produce a robust UAV capable of semi-autonomous flight, that can support archaeologists in capturing airborne site imagery.

Research since 2014: Archaeonautic

In 2014, our 3d reconstruction scope was extended to underwater archaeology. In collaboration with Prof. Dr. Martin Oczipka (HTW Dresden), the Archaeological Heritage Office in Saxony and the German Archaeological Insitute (DAI), a variety of research topics, with a focus on image improvement and underwater georeferencing, will be explored. The project has been financially supported by the Saxon State Ministery for Science and Arts (SMWK) since 2015.

Video contest winner at the CHNT-19 in Wien/Austria in 2014

In addition to the presentation of the project at the conference, we again created a small video for participation in the video contest:


We would like to take the opportunity to thank all those who participated in this work. Special thanks go to Toni Schiemank for taking care of cutting and editing the material on short notice. Also to NVIDIA corporation for generously donating the high-performance GPU hardware that we used to process our data. This video is the Winner of the 3rd Vienna Cultural Heritage and New Technologies Video-Award.

Documentation of Kerlingarfjöll/Iceland in 2014

Some impressions of the Archaeocopter team at work in Iceland in July 2014:


Thanks to Andre Knuth for supporting us in producing this video.

Documentation of Tamtoc/Mexico in 2013

In October 2013, the project team went to San Luis Potosí, Mexico to document the ancient Huastec site of Tamtoc. Over the course of three intense working days, we collected video footage of the site's impressive ceremonial centre and a number of buildings, as well as some stone reliefs and sculptures.

We would like to thank the site's supervisor, Estela Martínez Mora (INAH) and Prof. Dr. Peter Kroefges (UASLP) for providing access to the site and managing the logistics in Mexico.

Documentation of Freiberg/Germany in 2013

Some impressions of the Archaeocopter at work on the site of the Dominican monastry of Freiberg (Saxony) in April 2013:


Thanks, once more, to Flavio Trillo (giga.de), for supporting us in producing this video.

Video contest at the CHNT-18 in Wien/Austria in 2013

In addition to the presentation of the project at the conference, we also created a small video for participation in the video contest:


We would like to take the opportunity to thank all those who worked on this creation. Special thanks go to Robert Albert for taking care of cutting and editing the material on short notice.

Project partners