It was bound to happen eventually. I fly my drone in the Brú na Bóinne area at least once a month, and as many of you will know some of those flights have resulted in major discoveries.
In 2018, some images I captured with the drone at Newgrange Farm were subsequently seen by millions of people when I photographed the cropmarks revealing a giant, previously unknown monument which is likely to be a Late Neolithic henge. This is the monument which has come to be known as ‘Dronehenge’. Later, popular map programmes and apps such as Google Earth and Apple Maps were updated with satellite imagery which had been captured during the June and July 2018 drought, revealing a plethora of previously unknown monuments and archaeological features through an abundance of cropmarks in tillage fields that had been starved of moisture. I went on to report over 300 previously unrecorded monuments and probable archaeological features as a result of extensive examination of this drought imagery.
Fast-forward to 2022. I keep a regular eye on Google Earth because it has a historical imagery feature which shows images taken in previous years, and consequently the satellite imagery used by the program tends to be updated at least once, if not several times, a year.
For over a year now, its imagery of Brú na Bóinne has not been updated. However, I launched the program today to find that there was new satellite photography from Brú na Bóinne, taken in August 2022.
I quickly noticed that the field in which Dronehenge was situated was being harvested at the time the satellite imagery was taken, and remembered that I had flown the drone during the early stages of that harvest. Intuitively, I zoomed in towards Dronehenge, and to a small car park located just south of the river from the location of that great monument. I could see that there was a solitary vehicle in the car park, one that looked like it could be my silver van. And beside it, a blue dot. I had flown the drone over Newgrange Farm at lunchtime on Thursday 11th August to capture some images of the spring barley crop at Dronehenge being harvested. I had parked the van in that car park. Could that be my van, pictured on that day?
A quick count of the straw bales along the eastern perimeter of the Dronehenge field in both my drone images taken that day and the Google Earth image revealed that bit both were taken at the same time. By coincidence, a satellite had captured the moment of one of my regular drone flights at Brú na Bóinne! Although the resolution of the image is not pristine, I can just see a blurry blob standing outside the driver’s door, which is probably me, either getting ready to launch the drone, flying it over the area using the controller, or landing it to head home.
I am unable to calculate the odds of this occurrence happening, but they are probably slimmer than I imagine. I had previously flown the drone in the vicinity on 18th July, and have not flown it there since 11th August. My time spent flying on 11th August was just 15 minutes.
The satellite could have taken its photograph at any time during the course of that day, but it coincided with my short drone flight. I am delighted that Google Earth snapped this moment for posterity, given my own love of drone archaeological reconnaissance and searching through Google Earth imagery looking for monuments.
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