Media Alert: Flights Above Northern Maine to Map Geology

Release Date:

USGS Low-level Airplane Surveys Beginning Soon

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.

A low-flying airplane will be visible to residents of northern Maine beginning in mid to late May and lasting potentially through August 2021.

The low-level flights are being coordinated by U.S. Geological Survey and Maine Geological Survey scientists to image geology at the surface and below ground. The effort is part of the Earth Mapping Resources Initiative (Earth MRI), a nationwide collaboration between the USGS and state geologists initiated in 2019 to better understand geology in particular areas.

Cessna 208B Grand Caravan

Cessna 208B Grand Caravan, airplane used to conduct low-level flights. Image courtesy Sander Geophysics Limited (SGL).

(Credit: Mike McManus. Image courtesy SGL)

“It has been more than 60 years since a public high-resolution survey was flown in northern Maine, and we are excited about the new information that the data will provide,” said Amber Whittaker with the Maine Geological Survey.

Cessna 208B Grand Caravan in Flight

Cessna 208B Grand Caravan, airplane used to conduct low-level flights. Image courtesy Sander Geophysics Limited (SGL).

(Image courtesy SGL)

Instruments on the airplane will measure variations in the Earth’s magnetic field and natural low-level radiation created by different rock types up to several miles beneath the surface. This information will help researchers develop geologic maps in three dimensions, which can provide scientists with the framework needed to better evaluate natural resources, groundwater or earthquake hazards. The scientific instruments on the airplane are completely passive and do not pose a risk to humans, animals or plant life.

This survey will be flown at an altitude of 300 to 1,000 feet above ground by contractor Sander Geophysics Limited. Experienced pilots who are specially trained and approved for low-level flying will operate the aircraft. All flights will occur during daylight hours and are coordinated with the FAA to ensure accordance with U.S. law.  The flights will be based out of Saint-Georges Airport (Saint-Georges Aerodrome) in Quebec, potentially moving to Presque Isle International Airport later in the survey. Parts of Aroostook, Penobscot, Piscataquis and Somerset Counties will be covered.

Maine Low-Level Flight Study Area

The USGS low-level airplane survey will take place within the polygon on the map, which covers several counties in northern Maine.

(Public domain.)

Maine Low-Level Flight Expanded View

The USGS low-level airplane survey will take place within the polygon on the map, which covers several counties in northern Maine.

(Public domain.)