QuestUAV Images Make UNESCO World Heritage Sites Perceptible For Visually Impaired People
An Image-Based Model of an Amphitheater Amazes Visitors at Ancient Kourion, Cyprus
The ancient city-kingdom of Kourion is an impressive archaeological park on the southwestern coast of Cyprus and part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Paphos. The park has a pretty visitor center, where interested people can experience history in a lively way.
In 2014, the British drone manufacturer QuestUAV, in cooperation with the Cyprus University of Technology, flew the archaeological park with one of their Q-200 Surveyor drones. Pix4Dmapper Pro was used to translate the acquired high resolution aerial images into a virtual 3D model. Sections of this virtual model were printed in 3D and can now be discovered by visually impaired people at the visitor centre.
Original QuestUAV image (left) and 3d model of the Amphitheatre at the visitor centre (right).
About the Survey
The QuestUAV team flew the archaeological park with one of their Q-200 Surveyor drones, equipped with a Sony A6000 camera and a 16mm wide angle lens. A total area of 100 ha was flown at 400 ft. A team of two was used for the survey – a pilot and a laptop commander.
330 aerial photographs were taken during a 20 minutes fully autonomous flight. The automatic camera trigger and the gimballed camera system allowed us to take pin sharp pictures even at high wind speeds of up to 40 km/h.
Pre-takeoff checks of the Q-200 Agri-Pro.
Getting ready for takeoff.
The images have a ground sampling distance (GSD) of 2.5cm with an overlap of 80% in-flight direction and 65% sidelap. At the same time, the Q-200 Surveyor recorded the GPS coordinates of each camera position in a log file, allowing for geo-locating the images on the earth. The entire survey from flight planning, through autonomous flight and culminating in parachute landing took no longer than an afternoon.
Image Processing and 3D Print
UAV images and log file were the basis for creating a high resolution geo-referenced orthomosaic and a virtual 3D model of the entire archaeological park. The image products were generated in Pix4Dmapper Pro, a professional photogrammetry software for processing aerial imagery.
The survey results have been primarily used to create archaeological site maps of the ancient city of Kourion with a never seen level of detail. The team around the Cyprus University of Technology and the Cyprus Department of Antiquities was impressed by the quality of the 3D model and the performance our Q-200 Surveyor drone.
In summer 2015, the park administration came up with the fantastic idea to use sections of the virtual 3D model, like the amphitheatre, as template for physical exhibition models in the visitors’ centre. The exhibition models are printed in 3D on the basis of the virtual dataset. Nowadays the models are surrounded with Braille annotations and explanations allowing those who are visually impaired to interactively experience the history of Kourion.
UAV-based orthomosaic (left) and digital elevation model (right) of the archaeological park. The amphitheatre (yellow circle) is only a small part of the whole virtual model.
Over the last few years, UAV surveys became an important method to analyse archaeological sites and to help keeping cultural heritage. UAV-based 3D models allow archaeological experts and other interested people to virtually visit and analyse ancient places. 3D print-outs are a wonderful way present mapping results and to educate the public at exhibitions or visitor centres. Combined with Braille explanations, printed 3D models make historical places perceptible for visually impaired people.
View from the upper tiers of the Amphitheatre.
About the Ancient City of Kourion
Kourion was an ancient city-kingdom on the southwestern coast of Cyprus and an urban center of considerable importance. The most ancient remains in the area are connected with settlements and tombs of the Ceramic Neolithic period (circa 5500-4000 BCE). The majority of the archaeological remains within the Kourion Archaeological Area date to the Roman and Early Byzantine periods. They include several buildings with well conserved floor mosaics. All archaeological remains within the area are managed and administered by the Cyprus Department of Antiquities.