Special Issue "(Re)Defining the Archaeological Use of UAVs"

A special issue of Drones (ISSN 2504-446X).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 September 2018

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Dr. Geert Verhoeven

Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection & Virtual Archaeology (LBI ArchPro), Ludwig Boltzmann Gesellschaft GmbH, Franz-Klein-Gasse 1, A-1190 Vienna, Austria
Website | E-Mail
Interests: airborne remote sensing; (scientific) photography; image-based 3D modelling; image fusion; data visualization; digital archaeology; landscape archaeology

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles/Systems (UAVs/UASs), also referred to as Remotely Piloted Airborne Systems (RPASs) or drones, have been used in archaeological research for at least three decades. However, ongoing research in the fields of robotics and geomatics, the proliferation of multicopters and flying wings, hardware price reductions and the miniaturization of various (imaging) sensors have significantly increased and improved the application of these platforms in the fields of archaeology and cultural heritage. From their use as prospection devices (to find out what lurks below the ground) to their application as cost-effective and highly maneuverable documentation platforms (for photographing or scanning difficult to access locations), UAVs have indeed altered and democratized many aspects of archaeological geospatial data collection in the past decades. However, this does not automatically mean that these high-tech tools are increasingly revolutionizing archaeology, as is often claimed. Many projects still use drones merely as convenient bird’s-eye view devices for the occasional collection of snapshots, potentially driven by the need to follow current trends in digital archaeology and digital humanities. In addition to these rather theoretical concerns, many practical issues and potential obstacles remain. For example, the rise of UAVs as flexible sensing platforms has in turn brought about safety and privacy concerns. Moreover, the non-expert’s perception of UAV-driven applications still balances somewhere between the controversy surrounding military drones and the fascination for pizza-delivering unmanned aircrafts.

This Special Issue of Drones seeks exceptional papers that explore and illustrate the breadth of avenues for UAVs in archaeological research, presenting appropriate theoretical and practical assessments, as well as recent original research of archaeological drone usage. Rather than another contribution on basic 3D surface model extraction from a collection of drone images, authors are encouraged to submit innovative papers showcasing how these unmanned motorized airborne platforms can currently transform the acquisition of archaeological knowledge. In this way, this Special Issue of Drones will compile a collection of high-impact papers that delineate the remote sensing potential and unique applications of UAVs in archaeology in 2017. Such a volume will not only (re)define the state-of-the-art in the archaeologically-relevant use of any type of unmanned motorized airborne platform, it also holds the potential to pave the way for furthering accurate, realistic, reliable, and relevant research in the nascent field of drone-based archaeological sensing.

Dr. Geert J. Verhoeven
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Drones is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) is waived for well-prepared manuscripts submitted to this issue. Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • Archaeology
  • Ancient monuments
  • Landscape archaeology
  • Heritage documentation
  • Airborne remote sensing
  • Airborne geophysics
  • Monochromatic, multi- and hyper-spectral reflectance and thermal imaging
  • Data fusion

Published Papers (1 paper)

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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle UAVs in Context: Archaeological Airborne Recording in a National Body of Survey and Record
Drones 2018, 2(1), 2; doi:10.3390/drones2010002
Received: 30 November 2017 / Revised: 20 December 2017 / Accepted: 21 December 2017 / Published: 23 December 2017
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Historic Environment Scotland (HES) is the lead public body which investigates, promotes and cares for the historic environment in Scotland. It undertakes a range of archaeological airborne work from detailed documentation of individual sites to extensive national programmes of prospection. In undertaking this
[...] Read more.
Historic Environment Scotland (HES) is the lead public body which investigates, promotes and cares for the historic environment in Scotland. It undertakes a range of archaeological airborne work from detailed documentation of individual sites to extensive national programmes of prospection. In undertaking this work HES draws on a variety of aerial platforms to collect imagery, including light aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV—used throughout this paper as an umbrella term). In all cases, the archaeological questions at hand are the key driver for choice of methodology and platforms, recognising that different types of survey and documentation demand different responses. Differing strands of aerial work will be briefly described, followed by short case studies that illustrate the range of our activities, concluding with thoughts on the context of UAV work for archaeological applications. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue (Re)Defining the Archaeological Use of UAVs)

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