Drones are used in so many different industries, but now scientists are using drones to investigate and analyze ancient footprints left by dinosaurs thousands of years ago.
Australian scientists have begun using drones to track and map prehistoric dinosaur tracks in distant areas. They use the data obtained by the drones to build three-dimensional models of the sites to analyze closer to home.
Lidar, a sophisticated laser scanning technology, and light drones are being used together to help research efforts. You can read more about the methods in this paper published on PeerJ.
Using the DJI Inspire 1 drone, researches are better able to analyse the limited number of flat and dry surfaces, compared to paleoichnological mapping techniques that are traditionally used.
DJI Inspire 1 drones are quadcopters that are able to takeoff and land vertically within small areas, allowing them to work efficiently and safely in locations such as Minyirr.
Scientists usually preserve footprints and other tracks via photography and drawing outlines by hand, the latter method being quite time consuming.
The drones appeal to the scientists because drones can fly over large track sites in remote locations, even if the locations are close to water sources or are partially submerged. Pilots can be far away from the locations and still be able to pilot the drones and view the tracks and footprints in real time.
Drones also help researches figure out which ancient animals were responsible for the tracks discovered. 3D modelling done from drone data helps scientists discern whether or not the animal was running or walking, and what dinosaur or animal left the track in the ground.
The 3D models also help researches figure out how large the animal was and whether or not they were pack animals or travelled alone. The drones gather a significant amount of data that helps put together an idea of what that animal’s behaviour was like.
Anthony Romilio, an author of the paper mentioned previously, has used drones to collect data and photographs from over 70 sites, and plans on using that information to further his own research into prehistoric animals.