Americas Multirotor

OLD WEST MEETS NEW TECH: Using drones to aerially survey Bodie, a California Gold Rush Mining Town


Monarch, Inc completed the first stage of a project this week to aerially survey and 3D map the 19th-century ghost mining town of Bodie, California.

Part of the California State Parks system, Bodie is an original California Gold Rush town. In its heyday during the 1880s, Bodie was a vibrant and volatile gem of the Wild West, and is now kept in a state of ‘arrested decay’. The California State Parks system invited Monarch, Inc to survey important Bodie structures using high precision UAVs to help preserve data about the historic town. The flights took place under the guidelines of the Parks’ COA naming Monarch, Inc and made use of a custom-built drone and 3D-printed gimbal.

Day 1 involved mapping the Old Town area, which features houses eerily preserved as if their inhabitants had just left, and keystones of everyday life in the mining town like the General Store and Hotel.

Day 2 took the team higher up the mountains to map the New Hoist area, and included a collaboration with the University of California, Merced, whose team 3D scanned the inside and outside of an important structure at risk of imminent collapse.

The two data sets were georectified using GPS markers and mapped into a 3D model using Pix4D.

This is the beginning of an anticipated multi-stage effort to use drones for preservation reasons. The age of the timber used in most of Bodie’s remaining original structures has reached a critical point and some structures may not survive the winter. The drought conditions in California have accelerated the deterioration, making the collection of data all the more crucial.

See for further details, or contact [email protected]. Photos and scans from the project are available at:

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