Whilst Palmyra had been inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List since 1980, it was taken by ISIS troops in May 2015 and only recovered during the Palmyra offensive in March 2016. The castle, the temple and the remains of the city have been partly destroyed by Daech.
The French start-up Iconem raised more than €1,4m from French drone producer Parrot in 2015 so as to be able to launch the “Syrian Heritage” project, in coordination with the Syrian Directorate General for Antiquities and Museums. The first step, one week after the liberation of Palmyra, was to acquire field data. This was accomplished using a drone to take several thousand aerial pictures. Iconem recorded and surveyed all the blocs on site. The second step was to start the 3D reconstruction simulation, a process that will eventually help the physical reconstruction of Palmyra.
A powerful algorithm processed the high-quality pictures taken by the drone to develop models for every destroyed monument of Palmyra. Iconem has also used older pictures to reconstruct the monuments in 3D as they were before destruction, and developed models to simulate the dynamics of the explosion. In turn, this will help archaeologists and architects find the original places of fallen blocks. Syrian Heritage is an ongoing project, in which drones play a key part to help preserve and understand our cultural heritage.