The Jiankou section of the Great Wall of China is one of the famous landmark’s most photographed parts, not least because of the stunning mountain backdrop that adds to it. But getting up close to photograph and inspect the section is a much tougher proposition than getting tourist snaps.
Around 50 miles north of Beijing, the Jiankou section was constructed during the medieval era and, astoundingly, has never been properly restored.
Now, Intel drones are being used to survey the section in sufficient detail that damage can be assessed and repairs can be planned.
Replacing mules with drones
In partnership with the Chinese World Cultural Heritage Foundation, Intel is employing its Falcon 8+ drone technology to study the wall in a level of detail that was almost impossible to achieve previously.
Surveys such as these have generally been conducted manually over several weeks, using basic tools such as tape measures, and inspection of the relevant historical site with the naked eye. Mules have been an essential part of previous efforts to inspect the wall.
With such methods unreliable data is often obtained, if it can be obtained at all.
In contrast, Intel’s drone can capture 10,000 hi-res aerial images that are then stitched together to make a 3D model. This, along with other data gathered, can help experts produce a restoration plan in a matter of days rather than weeks.
“Using drones, we are able to inspect multiple aspects of the structure including areas that are quite inaccessible,” said Anil Nanduri, vice president and general manager of Intel’s drone team.
“We continue to be excited about the future of inspections being automated all the way from drone data capture to data processing, analysis and insights. We look forward to leveraging our technology to aid in the preservation of more world heritage sites in the future.”
Intel’s Artificial Intelligence will be involved in producing a visual representation of the area of wall in question in order to help efficiently and safely identify sections in need of repair.
Assessing global sites old and new
“As one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Great Wall has been exposed to weather erosion for thousands of years,” said Li Xiaojie, China Foundation for Cultural Heritage Conservation chairman. “Some parts are on steep inclines, which pose a great challenge for daily maintenance. Our partnership with Intel has opened new avenues for preservation.”
This is not the first project in which Intel drones have been utilized to inspect difficult-to-reach historical structures that need to be assessed and repaired.
As Sanvada reported in December last year, the drones reached parts of the 15th-century Halberstadt Cathedral in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany that other methods struggled to.
People working at more modern and hi-tech sites have also benefited from the technology, such as the Moomba Gas Plant in Australia’s Cooper Basin, where extremely high towers can be inspected with ease where once such a task posed significant danger to workers.