Hill forts


I realised after I responded what you meant
Would be good to do something like this.


Thank you Sputnik for starting this conversation and inviting me to GADC Forum!

Great to read all the comments and discover that everyone already seems to get the point of this ‘citizen science’ experiment. Just thought I’d briefly explain where we are now and where we hope the project will go in future:

It’s very early days. Set up the website this Summer and right now we have half a dozen forts on the website and about 4 more in editing. TBH, I think 4,147 sites is a little ambitious but even if we just get the biggest and best of them it will be worth while.

The plan: We’re starting with UK Hill Forts because they are amazing constructions in beautiful locations and are largely overlooked by most people. PaperCrane mentioned Maiden Castle - everyone should try to get there when they can, the place is mind blowing, and there are other great forts out there. How long would it take to build those ramparts today with diggers? Many of these sites were dug by hand with Antler pick axes and are 15m high! Didn’t stop the Romans though. We’re looking to expand the scope to include other sites which would benefit from aerial photography including Standing Stones, Castles etc so please send anything you can get. We also want to appeal to drone pilots internationally; Crusader Castles, Temples, Tombs, there is so much of human history and culture which is slowly disappearing and is only seen by a few people.

Finally, We’ve been looking at using drones to create interactive 3D maps of archaeological sites. I’ve been introduced to PrecisionHawk which has software which is free to download/use called PrecisionMapper Haven’t tried it yet so if anyone out there wants to be the first to send in a 3D Hill Fort map then I’ll guarantee it will be featured on the site :slight_smile:

This project is as new as it gets, so any comments/suggestions/contributions will make a real difference to how it develops from here.


Welcome to GADC, David! :+1:

Look forward to seeing how this project develops.


This is a really good point and something we are thinking about. When you look at the NT and English Heritage Drone guidelines it seems like the answer is ‘no’ before you even ask. That may be just to prevent them being swamped with enquiries, or it might be that they just hate drones(?). Our plan at the moment to is build keep building the website, collate a decent number of archaeological sites, and then contact the team at Oxford University who created the interactive map. If they can see that contributions have come in from drone users across the country and there is an interest in our ancient culture from the general public (which is us) then we might get some support from them when we approach the National Trust.

In the meantime there are still plenty of forts hiding in the hills waiting to be explored, so we have plenty to be getting on with :slight_smile:


Thank you :slight_smile:


@Airchaeology, Hi Dave,
I am sure the Members on GADC would be more than willing to help you fill in as many places as we can on your Hill Forts Map.
It also gives us the opportunity to hone our flying skills in doing so.
Many of our members are very experienced drone pilots and I am sure I speak for them in saying that it would be a perfect exercise in “doing some good” ( for Historical reasons.)
I hope with our help that you can fill in as many of your Hill Fort positions as we can, Legally !.


Thank you Chris! We’d like to see any footage, even if it isn’t perfect, but its encouraging to think that more experienced pilots might get behind this. It actually isn’t quite as simple as it looks. To get a decent circuit you need to be flying sideways, camera pointing inwards and slightly down while also gently turning the drone to maintain a steady distance from the ramparts. Add to that the need to maintain a constant altitude and avoid obstacles and it can be challenging to get smooth footage. To reduce file size and to make it more interesting for viewing on the website we increase the playback speed by 150-300% which tends to exaggerate the effect of any changes of angle or course. Having said that, we’re not insisting on perfect - as you can see by the footage on the website which I shot!


Thanks for explaining David
So we have over 4000 to go at
Will be ready Tuesday


I see this as two for the price of one for Tony Robinson with his Drones of Britain and Time team tv shows.


Not here. There’s at least two of us from over in the East and it all gets a bit different over there.

Norfolk & Suffolk = North Folk and South Folk. What happens if you go west then? We just pretend that bit isn’t there and write ‘here be dragons’ on the map.


I may be talking out of turn here, but here goes !.

Would it be an idea for our members to have some sort of Official Document that they can carry with them, from you, or one of your Official Hill Fort supporters to enable them to have some sort of Document with them to say that they are on an Archaeological Survey, or something similar.
I only ask as several members (including myself!) have encountered hostilities from members of the Public while flying at several locations.
If we were to have a Document to produce on approaching people who’s land we may have to walk on to get to the location of the Hill Fort, it will (I hope) make our job of carrying the survey for you, a lot easier.
I ask ,as we have a section in The Members Area, which I have collated a collection of “Useful Documents” for our Members to make use of during their Flying Activities.
Chip in Guys, if you feel the same way !


Thanks for the explanation. I’ll pull together some stuff re Maiden Castle when I get a minute and send it over. I’ll upload something here as well of course. Now that I know this is happening I’ll give some thought to this project when thinking about shot selection in advance.

I’d echo the comment about going to MC. It is the largest hill fort in the country and the scale of it is breathtaking. I walked up it after I’d flown over it. The earthworks are massive and there are many of them. Even without having to watch your step because all of the sheep poo, it takes ages to walk over it. We walked about 1/3 of the way across and back around the edge.

We don’t have that many hillforts here in East Anglia. Something to do with a lack of hills. ‘Gentle undulation forts’ never seem to have caught on.


This is a good idea.


@Airchaeology, @PingSpike, @callum, @OzoneVibe
Dave, etc,
Could I also suggest that we have a dedicated area/section on GADC on just this subject, its seems as if it could grow to quite a size !.
Then Members can then consult the section, to see if any other Member has already carried out an Aerial Survey, etc.
Seems pointless that several people do the one area, several times.
Unless of course the Member wants to photograph it “Because it’s There”, so to speak.
This also would be the ideal scenario to possibly have “Meets” at a particular locations whereby the site covers a large area, (as @PaperCrane has said above about Maiden Castle)
One person can then be nominated to approach (who ever is contactable) the land owner/council, prior to the survey to get any necessary permissions, and also any Local Airports, C.A.A. for permissions to fly
Any thoughts Mods?


Let’s see how it goes. Could end up with a category/sub-categoty with just one thread, that achieves nothing and only confuses.


I agree Dave, we would not want to confuse members, as you say, that achieves nothing.
I personally can see only certain dedicated Members carrying this out, not 100’s of members !.


… are still to add themselves to the map … that doesn’t even need checking batteries are charged. :wink:


Think that is the best course of action for now.

Get a few done and if it is popular we can review it in a few weeks or so.


Hi Chris,

I would love to be in a position to issue some kind of warrant or permit to fly, but unfortunately we have no authority whatsoever. Sorry.

One thing we could do that might help when you’re on site; we could produce a small, branded leaflet which you could download and print out. It would contain information about the project, what we’re trying to do, why we’re doing it and what happens to the footage you take with your drone. We could include the web address for more information plus our contact details. You could then either laminate it and keep it with your kit, or print a few out as ‘handouts’ to anyone who is interested.

What do you think? Would that be helpful?


‘Gentle Undulation Forts’ Love it :grin:

East Anglia has many sites of interest. Although not all interesting from the air, there are some sites which, while not Hill Forts, will still be interesting subjects to shoot. There may be something in this list which looks interesting enough to fly over: http://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/library/browse/series.xhtml?recordId=1000263 ?