Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are increasingly used for many scientific applications, including archaeological surveys. We test the suitability and practicability of UAV surveying in the tropical lowlands of Brazil and techniques for visualizing the resulting digital elevation models, specifically the Red Relief Image Map (RRIM). We present the results of UAV surveys conducted at four diverse archaeological earthwork sites situated in interfluvial southwestern Amazonia, in the state of Acre. The elevation models produced from UAV derived point clouds display clear patterns in the site layouts and reveal subtle intra‐site earthwork features that are not easily discernible on the ground. Our study demonstrates that UAVs are cost efficient and give highly detailed results for topographic mapping and visualization of archaeological features when vegetation cover is sufficiently low and sparse. The rapid data capture and lack of spatial sampling bias of the UAV data collection is a significant advantage compared to conventional mapping methods. Furthermore, UAV surveying and UAV derived data processing do not require expensive technologies or specialized user expertise, since open‐source software and easy‐to‐use toolkits are readily available.
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Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
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