A detailed overlay from a drone photo of a buried stone platform near Petra.
Photograph by I. LaBianca
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Scanning an empty field that once housed a Shaker village in New Hampshire, Jesse Casana had come in search of the foundations of stone buildings, long-forgotten roadways and other remnants of this community dating to the 1790s. Instead of a trowel and shovel, Casana and his Dartmouth College colleague Chad Hill are using a drone equipped with a thermal imaging camera and mapping instruments.The camera can identify remnants of buildings and other structures up to several feet below the surface, since the temperatures of that brick or stone material is often warmer than the soil around it. By using the drone, the researchers can survey an area in minutes that might take months with traditional methods.They first began to experiment with the technology in 2012 after receiving a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.In 2014, they used the drone and camera at an ancestral Pueblo settlement in Blue J, New Mexico. Casana said, the camera technology has proved a success at arid locations without a lot of vegetation and where the structures are near the surface.
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