Airborne Magnetometer and UAV: The Mainstay of Future Underground Survey Missions

Airborne Magnetometer

What is an airborne magnetometer?


An airborne magnetometer is a device used for measuring variations in the Earth’s magnetic field from a flying object such as an aircraft, helicopter, or UAV drone. It typically consists of a sensor or magnetometer instrument that can detect changes in magnetic field strength. These measurements are important in various applications, including geological surveys, mineral exploration, and archaeological studies. Anomalies in the magnetic field can provide valuable information about subsurface features and geological formations. By flying over an area and collecting magnetic data, researchers and surveyors can create maps and models to better understand the Earth’s subsurface characteristics.


Vehicles to carry an airborne magnetometer


Aircraft, helicopters, and drones are all used as carrying vehicles for airborne magnetometers, and each has its own set of benefits. However, fitting the magnetometer to a ground-penetrating radar drone gives the best results in terms of resource identification and cost-saving.


  • Aircraft:

    Fixed-wing aircraft can fly at high altitudes, covering larger areas in a single flight and providing a broader perspective of the magnetic field. Aircraft can typically stay in the air for extended periods, allowing for extensive data collection without frequent refuelling. They offer better stability and smoother flight which can be critical for precise magnetometer readings. However, the operating and maintenance costs of the aircraft can be steep as you have to account for fuel and personnel. There’s also the matter of accessibility in tight and limited spaces which becomes difficult with an aircraft.


  • Helicopter:

    Helicopters can hover in place, making them well-suited for collecting magnetic data in areas with difficult terrain that makes it different to access with an aircraft. The airborne magnetometer on the helicopter can be utilised well with the precise positioning made possible by the hovering in place. However, there are certain limitations with a helicopter. Firstly, helicopters typically fly at lower altitudes, covering smaller areas in a single pass. Secondly, they have limited flight durations due to fuel constraints.


  • Drone:

    Drones are generally more cost-effective to operate than manned aircraft or helicopters as you don’t have to account for fuel or personnel. They can easily access remote or hard-to-reach locations, making them ideal for small-scale surveys. Drones can be programmed for precise flight paths and altitudes, allowing for targeted data collection. The only limitation with drones is that they can have weight restrictions and you need to make size adjustments with respect to the magnetometer in order to carry out a successful surveying operation.


Reimagining underground surveys with a GPR drone


The ground penetrating radar drone has long been an invaluable tool for subsurface investigations, enabling us to peer beneath the Earth’s surface to uncover buried secrets. However, recent advancements in drone technology have ushered in a new era in underground surveys, transforming the way we explore and understand what lies beneath.


GPR drones are capable of rapid data acquisition, covering large areas in a short amount of time. This efficiency is particularly valuable in time-sensitive applications, such as disaster response or landmine detection.


GPR drones are revolutionising archaeological excavations. They can quickly scan large archaeological sites, revealing buried structures, artefacts, and even entire ancient cities. This non-invasive approach preserves historical treasures while uncovering the past.


Applications of airborne magnetometer mounted on a ground-penetrating radar


The magnetometer device when mounted on a GPR drone offers a whole range of applications to the user. It has allowed for a cost-effective yet precise data collection method that is going to have a positive contributing effect in the scientific domain.


  • Mapping Mineral Resources:

    By combining a magnetometer with GPR, geophysicists, scientific researchers, and corporations can identify subsurface variations in magnetic properties associated with different mineral deposits. This technology helps in locating ore bodies, mineral veins, and other geological features, which is crucial for mineral exploration and mining operations.


  • Aquifer Identification:

    The combination of magnetometer and GPR can help hydrogeologists identify underground aquifers. Magnetic anomalies associated with certain geological formations can be correlated with GPR data to locate potential groundwater resources.


  • Archaeological and Geophysical Explorations:

    Archaeologists can benefit from this technology to discover buried archaeological sites and artefacts. The magnetometer can detect variations in magnetic properties caused by buried structures or artefacts, while GPR helps create high-resolution images of subsurface features.


  • Landmine Detection:

    Combining magnetometer and GPR technology is used for landmine detection and clearance in post-conflict regions. The magnetometer can detect the metallic components of landmines, while GPR can identify disturbances in the ground caused by buried mines.


  • Identifying Metallic Debris:

    The magnetometer is valuable for environmental assessments and cleanup efforts, such as locating buried metallic debris or waste in contaminated sites.


The magnetometer can identify and map areas with high concentrations of metal objects, and GPR can provide additional information about their depth and distribution.


In each of these applications, the integration of an airborne magnetometer with GPR enhances the precision and effectiveness of subsurface investigations. This combined approach allows for a more comprehensive understanding of the subsurface environment, enabling better resource management, hazard detection, and archaeological discoveries.


Key Takeaway


The integration of an airborne magnetometer with a GPR drone is transforming subsurface investigations, making them more accessible, precise, and efficient across various fields. This innovative approach not only enhances our ability to uncover buried treasures, assess infrastructure, and respond to disasters but also opens up new possibilities for exploring and understanding the hidden depths of our world. As technology advances, the potential of this combination becomes limitless, promising a future where the underground is more comprehensible and navigable than ever before.