Multi-sensor airborne remote sensing techniques for archaeological survey and interpretation

This source preferred by Ross Hill, Andrew Ford and Kate Welham

Authors: Bennett, R., Welham, K., Hill, R.A. and Ford, A.L.J.

Start date: 15 September 2010

The use of airborne remote sensing has found increasing popularity in the historic environment sector over the past decade. Many landscape projects across Europe are incorporating the application of archive airborne survey and increasing numbers are commissioning bespoke survey. This is particularly true for airborne laser scanning (ALS), but despite a number of promising applications, digital spectral surveys (referred to as multi or hyperspectral imaging) have been less frequently utilised. However our understanding of the full potential of these rich data sources and how they might best be combined is still in its infancy. Although often compared favourably with traditional aerial photography survey, each sensor by itself captures only a portion of what can be recognised in the shadow, soil, crop marks and earthworks as being of archaeological significance. As no single airborne sensor records all of the indicators we understand to represent archaeological remains, the strength of these techniques has to be in their complementarity to each other.

This paper details a project established at Bournemouth University in 2009 to develop a multisensor approach to airborne survey of liminal environments in the UK. Both archive and bespoke ALS and digital spectral data have been acquired for an area of archaeological interest on the Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire. The presentation will look at the techniques used to extract information about the archaeological features present from each airborne data source. The quality of this information was assessed by comparison to the baseline provided by previous archaeological interventions, including fieldwalking, excavation and extensive aerial photography survey as recorded in the local Historic Environment Record database and GIS. Some of the issue encountered will be discussed along with some potential ways forward for using airborne remote sensing data in landscapes that are not dominated by arable production.

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