Airborne Remote Sensing

Historic England uses airborne remote sensing methods to identify record, illustrate and monitor the condition of a wide variety of heritage assets.

The archaeological use of aerial photography continues to transform our knowledge of archaeological landscapes. Newer techniques such as lidar are revealing even more information.

Specialist airborne observers undertake aerial reconnaissance to identify and photograph historic sites, particularly those revealed through cropmarks.

Ground based archaeological air photo interpreters analyse thousands of historic and recent photographs, and 3d data from airborne laser scanning (lidar) to create maps of entire archaeological landscapes.

Historic England continually assesses and encourages the development of new techniques and provides advice on their use for a variety of heritage purposes. We have recently reviewed our Aerial Investigation and Mapping technical standards and methods: see the resulting review report.

Airborne Remote Sensing Methods Explained

  • Aerial Reconnaissance

    Aerial reconnaissance is used by archaeologists to discover new sites and record changes in the historic landscape

  • Aerial Investigation

    Interpretation and mapping of archaeology on aerial photographs provides better understanding of past landscapes to inform research and management

  • Aerial Photographs

    The use of aerial photographs in archaeological landscape survey.

  • Formation of Cropmarks

    Find out how cropmarks of archaeological sites are formed.

  • Lidar

    Lidar is capable of measuring the ground surface with a very high degree of accuracy enabling the recognition and recording of hard to detect features

  • Satellite and Multi-Spectral

    The use of satellite imagery and multi and hyper-spectral data has potential for the identification of new sites and for heritage management purposes

  • Drones for Heritage Uses

    Within the Heritage sector drones are a remotely controlled, low-level, aerial platform for carrying a range of sensors that are getting increased use

Archaeological Investigation