Groundwater and Geology to be Surveyed Using Low-flying Helicopter in Southern San Joaquin Valley

Release Date:

In the public interest, and in accordance with FAA regulations, the USGS is announcing this low-level airborne project. Your assistance in informing the local communities is appreciated.

What:             A low-flying helicopter under contract to the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the California State Water Resources Control Board, will begin collecting and recording geophysical measurements for scientific research purposes.

Where:           Southern San Joaquin Valley, California, with focused efforts near Buttonwillow, Valley Acres, and Dustin Acres.

When:            Starting on or about November 13, 2017, and lasting one-to-two weeks.

Beginning on or about November 13, 2017, a helicopter-borne geophysical system will collect measurements in the southern San Joaquin Valley, with focused efforts near the towns of Buttonwillow, Dustin Acres, and Valley Acres, California.

These geophysical surveys, which will take one-to-two weeks to complete, entail flying relatively low to the ground (hundreds of feet above the land) over pre-planned grids of flight lines. A sensor, which resembles a large hula-hoop, will be towed beneath the helicopter to measure tiny voltages that can be used to map properties of the Earth’s subsurface.  Data collected during this survey will be analyzed by USGS scientists and used to map groundwater salinity and aquifer properties.

SkyTEM ApS, a specialty airborne geophysical company, will conduct the survey. Experienced pilots, who are specially trained for low-level flying required for geophysical surveys, will be operating the helicopter. The company works with the Federal Aviation Administration to ensure flights are in accordance with U.S. law.

This survey is a continuation of groundwater salinity and aquifer mapping efforts that took place last fall using a similar helicopter-borne system in the Lost Hills and Cawelo areas.  More information about this project can be found at:


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