New Era in Cultural Heritage Preservation

Cooperative Aerial Autonomy for Fast Digitalization of Difficult-to-Access Interiors of Historical Monuments

Published in IEEE Robotics & Automation Magazine (RA-M), 2023: DOI: 10.1109/MRA.2023.3244423.

Authors: P. Petracek, V. Kratky, T. Baca, M. Petrlik, M. Saska

Abstract: Digital documentation of large interiors of historical buildings is an exhausting task since most of the areas of interest are beyond typical human reach. We advocate the use of autonomous teams of multi-rotor Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to speed up the documentation process by several orders of magnitude while allowing for a repeatable, accurate, and condition-independent solution capable of precise collision-free operation at great heights. The proposed multi-robot approach allows for performing tasks requiring dynamic scene illumination in large-scale real-world scenarios, a process previously applicable only in small-scale laboratory-like conditions. Extensive experimental analyses range from single-UAV imaging to specialized lighting techniques requiring accurate coordination of multiple UAVs. The system's robustness is demonstrated in more than two hundred autonomous flights in fifteen historical monuments requiring superior safety while lacking access to external localization. This unique experimental campaign, which cooperated with restorers and conservators, brought numerous lessons transferable to other safety-critical robotic missions in documentation and inspection tasks.

Selected digital materials (incl. the paper with high-resolution images) are available here.

Project results:


This work was supported by the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic through project no. DG18P02OVV069 in program NAKI II, by the Ministry of Education of the Czech Republic through OP VVV funded project CZ.02.1.01/0.0/0.0/16 019/0000765 ”Research Center for Informatics,” by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program AERIAL-CORE under grant agreement no. 871479, by CTU grant no. SGS20/174/OHK3/3T/13, and by the Czech Science Foundation (GAČR) under research project No. 20-10280S.

The authors would like to thank Nicolas Staub for an initial survey of the projects' applicability in documentation and restoration, Jan Bednar for his assistance in creating 3D models for public presentation, Pavel Stoudek for preparing hardware platforms used during the experimental analyses, and Vojtech Krajicek for technical consultation of the restoration techniques. At last, we would like to thank to representatives of the Czech National Heritage Institute, namely Milan Skobrtal and Michaela Cadilova, for our fruitful cooperation during the project and for the opportunity to deploy the proposed system in real-world structures.