Will Cheap CM-Level GPS Replace Stakes, Strings and Tape Measures in Archaeology?

December 15, 2016 at 8:27 pm  •  Posted in Archaeology Work, Featured, Technology by

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Image: ESA

The European Space Agency’s Galileo system went live today after a bunch of rocket launches and billions in investment.  Sources say the system will be one of the most accurate positioning systems ever built and offer a pathway for inexpensive cm-level accuracy in all devices through new chips. This will advance the state of the art for drones, self-driving vehicles, emergency response and, of course, Archaeology.

Existing affordable recreational grade GPS systems struggle to get 2-meter accuracy.  To improve to 1-meter or so, you need to move to survey-grade systems and to get to cm-level, you’re talking 5-digits, tripods and headaches.  Considering the limited resources (money and time) of most Archaeology projects and the competitive pricing pressures on CRM, I feel sure that all-digital Archaeology grids will be adopted quickly by financial necessity as hardware manufacturers begin to employ the new chips.

Some of this is being driven by other industries, such as autonomous vehicles and drone delivery innovation.  It’s only a matter of time before our field equipment and even smartphones have chips so accurate that you must take care to always use the correct side of the device when taking your reading.  Metal detectors will incorporate their signal stream with these systems to allow you to “paint a picture” of a site not unlike GPR just by swinging your coil, later processing the paths into a picture of a surface.  Remote sensing will get a serious upgrade all at once.

Exciting times.  I’d love to hear from the professionals who follow my website and social channels. How will this change things?

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