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Harrisburg University, West Shore Historical Society partner to preserve historic landmarks with a drone

The teams are partnering up to "preserve historic landmarks from the sky."

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Harrisburg University of Science and Technology is partnering with the West Shore Historical Society to preserve historic landmarks from the sky.

Using a state-of-the-art drone with a specialized camera, Geospatial Technology major Joshua Reiss captures images from above the historic Vance McCormick Farmstead in Silver Spring Township, Cumberland County.

"So right now, we're just surveying the property and getting some orthomosaic images, which means that the drone is taking a bunch of photos straight down," said Reiss, pausing to glance up at his aircraft. "We're going to stitch those photos afterwards and it's going to create a 3-D map of the property."

Accompanying Reiss is Albert Sarvis, Assistant Professor of Geospatial Technology at Harrisburg University. Sarvis and Reiss take turns flying over the farm, and when one isn't flying, they're keeping their eyes to the sky, keeping track of the drone.

The duo used a combination of automatic and manual flights to capture the images needed for a three dimensional, interactive digital map of the property. Sarvis programmed the flight patterns into computer software for the drone to follow autonomously, allowing it to fly in side-by-side passes roughly 300 feet in the air without anyone touching the controls. Later, Sarvis and Reiss piloted the drone in areas that were harder to reach and required maneuvering around trees and powerlines.

"You can take pictures from the ground, but you get a totally different perspective of architecture and properties from the oblique aerial photos," Sarvis says. "You can see the exact layout of the structures and the property from that perspective. What this allows us to do is create high-resolution imagery. So if you were to zoom in from Google Earth, you'd be able to tell there's a driveway here, but we can actually see the cracks in the driveway."

Using a drone for digital preservation of a historic landmark is something that Reiss says hasn't been done anywhere in the world, and the West Shore Historical Society was on-site to witness the historic flight over a legendary property.

"What part of this is about is to bring local history and the importance of historical preservation to school districts throughout the county," says Christine Musser, Director of the historical society. She added that the three dimensional interactive map will be used in grades three through 12.

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