Drone Tech Sees Scottish Islands Mapped in ‘World-First’ Detail

Scottish company GeoGeo took more than 4,000 images of Canna and Sanday in the most detailed island mapping exercise ever undertaken. 

Glasgow-based drone company, GeoGeo, has created a 3D digital map of two Inner Hebridean islands for the National Trust for Scotland (NTS).

To do so, it flew its cutting-edge drone over Canna and Sanday, taking more than 4,000 images. In the process, it revealed new archaeological sites and was successful in identifying and recording the exact location of known sites.

The drone also revealed extensive traces of cultivation such as rig furrow field systems that range from the Bronze Age onward. Founder and lead geospatial technologist of GeoGeo, Paul Georgie, concerned that the white-tailed sea eagles and golden eagles might attack the drone, added evasive features to the drone to protect it from potential attacks.

The drone is capable of performing a number of aerial acrobatics, from barrels rolls to Immelmann turns e.g. looping and rolling to evade contact. NTS, which owns the islands, was more concerned that the drone might disturb the bird life on the islands. “Fortunately, although birds did take a passing interest, we had no need to use this over Canna,” said Georgie.

Related: National Trust for Scotland Uses Drone to Map Scottish Islands

“We spent five days on Canna last November in miraculously calm and clear weather, with our flying robot navigating itself over 400km to capture over 4,000 images of the islands,” he continued.

“We then took this data and processed on self-built super computers to produce the most complete 3-D map of the islands to date.“This not only shows detailed topography and vegetation at a game-changing three centimetres resolution but, with over 420 million data points, is currently the world’s largest complete island dataset captured by drone.”

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Derek Alexander, NTS head of archaeology, said: “We’ve previously recorded archaeology on Canna and Sanday, which proves that there were inhabitants as far back as the Neolithic, but this survey gives us information and detail we just haven’t had until now.

“My colleagues in the trust were blown away by the results and the possibilities of this technology – the cameras allied to ‘self-learning’ software will be able to help us do things like seabird counts, as well as habitat and coastal erosion monitoring that are currently expensive and labour-intensive.”

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