Supporting Long-Term Archaeological Research in Southern Romania Chalcolithic Sites Using Multi-Platform UAV Mapping
Spatial data play a crucial role in archaeological research, and orthophotos, digital elevation models, and 3D models are frequently used for the mapping, documentation, and monitoring of archaeological sites. Thanks to the availability of compact and low-cost uncrewed airborne vehicles, the use of UAV-based photogrammetry matured in this field over the past two decades. More recently, compact airborne systems are also available that allow the recording of thermal data, multispectral data, and airborne laser scanning. In this article, various platforms and sensors are applied at the Chalcolithic archaeological sites in the Mostiștea Basin and Danube Valley (Southern Romania). By analysing the performance of the systems and the resulting data, insight is given into the selection of the appropriate system for the right application. This analysis requires thorough knowledge of data acquisition and data processing, as well. As both laser scanning and photogrammetry typically result in very large amounts of data, a special focus is also required on the storage and publication of the data. Hence, the objective of this article is to provide a full overview of various aspects of 3D data acquisition for UAV-based mapping. Based on the conclusions drawn in this article, it is stated that photogrammetry and laser scanning can result in data with similar geometrical properties when acquisition parameters are appropriately set. On the one hand, the used ALS-based system outperforms the photogrammetric platforms in terms of operational time and the area covered. On the other hand, conventional photogrammetry provides flexibility that might be required for very low-altitude flights, or emergency mapping. Furthermore, as the used ALS sensor only provides a geometrical representation of the topography, photogrammetric sensors are still required to obtain true colour or false colour composites of the surface.