A four-legged robot called Spot has been deployed to wander around the ruins of ancient Pompeii, identifying structural and safety issues while delving underground to inspect tunnels dug by relic thieves.
The dog-like robot is the latest in a series of technologies used as part of a broader project to better manage the archaeological park since 2013, when Unesco threatened to add Pompeii to a list of world heritage sites in peril unless Italian authorities improved its preservation.
Spot, made by the US-based Boston Dynamics, is capable of inspecting even the smallest of spaces while “gathering and recording data useful for the study and planning of interventions”, park authorities said.
The aim, they added, is to “improve both the quality of monitoring of the existing areas, and to further our knowledge of the state of progress of the works in areas undergoing recovery or restoration, and thereby to manage the safety of the site, as well as that of workers.”
Until Spot came along, no technology of its kind had been developed for archaeological sites, according to Gabriel Zuchtriegel, the director of Pompeii archaeological park.
Park authorities have also experimented with a flying laser scanner capable of conducting 3D scans across the 66-hectare (163-acre) site.