Media Advisory: Low-Level Flights to Begin Assessing Local Mineral Resources this Monday

Release Date:

U.S. Geological Survey scientists will conduct a high-resolution airborne survey to study the rock layers under a region of northeastern Iowa, starting Monday, October 19, and lasting into November.

U.S. Geological Survey scientists will conduct a high-resolution airborne survey to study the rock layers under a region of northeastern Iowa, starting Monday, October 19, and lasting into November. When the data analysis is complete, resulting geologic maps will help USGS researchers improve an assessment of mineral resources in the region. 

As part of this research, a low-flying airplane will be used. Residents and visitors should not be alarmed to witness this airplane flying low to the ground near the broader Cedar Rapids and Waterloo region. 

The airplane is under contract to the USGS through EON Geosciences. The aircraft will be operated by experienced pilots who are specially trained and approved for low-level flying. All flights are coordinated with the Federal Aviation Administration to ensure accordance with United States law. 

The survey area is thought to be part of the 1.1 billion year old Midcontinent Rift, a major structure that stretches across much of the central United States. The Midcontinent Rift includes large volumes of mafic rocks which, in the Lake Superior region, contain significant resources of nickel, copper and platinum.

“We plan to use the new geophysical data to help determine if there is potential for similar resources to exist in the survey area,” said USGS scientist Benjamin Drenth, a Denver-based researcher leading the study. “This research is meant to study deep rocks, beneath limestone and sandstone layers.”

The airplane will carry instruments to measure variations in the earth's magnetic field. Because different rock types vary in content of magnetic minerals, the resulting maps allow visualization of the geologic structure below the surface. The instruments carried on the aircraft only make passive measurements, and thus pose no health risk to humans or animals.

This survey will be flown in a grid pattern. North-south lines will be flown approximately one quarter mile apart at elevations from 250-1,000 feet above the ground, and 3 miles apart in an east-west direction. All survey flights will occur during daylight hours. 

The Iowa Geological Survey is partnering with the USGS on the project.

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

Image: EON Geosciences Airplane
EON Geosciences airplane under contract to the USGS for low-level flights in Cedar Rapids/Waterloo, Iowa, area. Public domain