|Drone derived slope model of portion of Zuleta.
The Pyramids of Zuleta are one of the hidden treasures of the Andes. Built around 1,000 years ago, by the native Caranqui people, these earthen mounds and platform pyramids dominate the landscape near Hacienda Zuleta. Unlike much of our planet, high resolution aerial imagery and digital elevation models are unavailable for this part of the world. This is due to the fog that often blankets the area and the agrarian nature of the region. As a part of a team of archaeologists who visited the site in the August 2013, we aimed to change that.
|Comparison of Landsat Imagery (best public data available) vs. UAV
Using a small, hand-launched, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV aka drone) equipped with a downward facing camera and a sophisticated autopilot system, we documented the site as it has never been seen—from extremely low altitude and at high resolution. This was a challenging task as most of the pyramids are located in the bottom of steep constricted canyon inhabited by Andean Condors. To make things more challenging there were high winds, clouds, and quirks of the micro-climates within the canyon to contend with. In spite of that, we were able to fly nine missions and collect hundreds of photographs in just a couple of days.
|Programming the UAV while in flight.
|Radiance scaled enhancement of UAV data.
|Pyramids deep within the canyon.
Our team has conducted similar mapping missions in Australia, Belize, Belgium, Fiji, France, Germany, The Republic of Kiribati, Peru, and South Africa. We look forward to continuing these sorts of projects elsewhere and helping to preserve and understand our past.
|Hand launching the drone.