UAV surveys can provide the means to rapidly document and monitor changes to archaeological sites at risk of destruction. To compliment the UAV training carried out in 2018 further UAV training was provided for five days between the 17th and 21st of September 2019. Training was carried out by Patricia Voke (Wessex Archaeology).12 individuals benefited from this training: five from the Institut National du Patrimoine (INP); three from the Department of Antiquities, Tripoli (DoA); four from the Department of Antiquities, Benghazi.
The training provided to the participants was twofold. Firstly, the trainees learnt how to plan UAV surveys and basic UAV flight skills and safety. They were then taught how to plan and collect data in order to produce 3D models. The second half of the training focused on processing of these models. This training built upon skills previously learnt throughout the Training in Action project and to compliment the skill set of each participant. The skills our participants learnt during this course will provide them with the ability to photograph and model archaeological remains at the sites they manage and protect. Presentation, manuals and pro-forma recording sheets and all relevant data was given to the participants. All data collected throughout the UAV training was also shared amongst each participant.
The training commenced with an introduction to UAV’s and why we use them in archaeological recording in the classroom. The main focus of Day one’s training was to demonstrate the necessity of pre-flight planning for safe flying and good data collection. Training was also given in data collection software for photogrammetry. In the afternoon the training focused on risk assessments, on site flight assessment and recording and setting up the UAV.
Figure 1: UAV classroom Training
Day two focused on flight training and take off and landing skills. This training was carried out in the field at the site of Iunca north of the fortress. We flew very early morning as the weather during the midday was too hot for the UAV. Weather conditions were perfect, and the participants practiced basic flight skills and emergency procedures in case of a UAV malfunction or air incursion. In the afternoon the participants had the opportunity to use the drone simulator which will provide hands on training throughout the year for further flight skills. Practice makes perfect!
Figure 2: Preparing the site for UAV survey
Day three was another early start in the field and the training focused on basic flight skills and using photogrammetry software for collecting data. In the afternoon further drone simulator training was carried out. The participants were taught to download and store data from the UAV. We also introduced the theory behind making 3D models and ortho-mosaics from photographs taken with the UAV.
Figure 3: UAV flight training on site
This was our final day in the field collecting data. The participants learnt out to prepare the site for photogrammetry survey using survey targets, large enough for the drone to photograph. The participants then carried out a UAV flight that was used to take photographs and capture data with the UAV flying at 25 m above ground level. In the afternoon training began on how to take these images from the UAV and turn them into scaled models.
Figure 4: Simulator Training
On our final day of training we finished the training in 3D models and photogrammetry and each participant successfully made an ortho-mosaic of the survey area and placed it into a GIS database of the site of Iunca.
Figure 5: Ortho-mosaic from data collected on site by the participants
Results of training
As a result of the training, each participant will have a much better understanding of the role of UAV survey, its applications and limitations. They should have good knowledge on several UAV techniques and be able to determine on a site by site basis what is the appropriate survey to carry out.
Each participant will have gained the ability to assess an archaeological landscape as a whole. They then should be able to design specific research aims and utilise UAV survey where appropriate to meet these objectives. They will also have a good understanding of UAV survey and where, what and when to use this technique in the safest manner possible.
Each trainee will be able to competently fly a DJI Mavic Pro drone and be able to perform some basic flight manoeuvres and activate fail-safe procedures in the event of an aircraft or
pilot malfunction. The skills they will have learnt to fly this specific drone will also be applicable to multiple alterative UAV’s.
All trainees will be able to plan and deploy a UAV for photogrammetry survey through the use of a third-party app Pix4DCapture. This software provides an easy and full-proof flight planning ability where the drone will fly autonomously and take the necessary photographs required to create 3D models. Building upon the photogrammetry skills learnt previously during the Training in Action project in 2018 and 2019, all trainees will be able to process the aerial photographs in order to produce digital elevation models and ortho-mosaics of each site.
Each trainee will be able to geo-locate raster images of the UAV data in QGIS and integrate the results of the UAV survey with existing archaeological data bases for each site they investigate.
Figure 6: UAV flight training on site
The participants learnt some highly-technical skills over the five days of training. Learning to fly a UAV can be challenging and all participants need further flight training in order to be truly competent. Use of the simulator should increase their flight skills but further on-site training is required.
Each participant excelled at producing 3D models due to the training they had already had during previous training sessions. Further training session should focus on how to use these models to document and monitor archaeological sites.