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Media Alert: Flights Above Parts of Northwestern Minnesota to Map Geology 

Editor: In the public interest and in accordance with the 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 soon be visible to residents in seven counties of northwestern Minnesota, including the city of Thief River Falls and parts of the Red River corridor along the Minnesota-North Dakota border.  

Cessna 180 Fixed-wing Aircraft
Cessna 180 fixed-wing aircraft used to conduct low-level flights. 


Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey, Minnesota Geological Survey, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Natural Resources Research Institute  are partnering to image geology using airborne geophysical technology as part of the USGS Earth Mapping Resource Initiative (Earth MRI) project.  


Beginning in mid-May and potentially lasting through July, an airplane under contract to EDCON-PRJ, Inc. and Quantum Spatial, Inc. will be flying over portions of Becker, Clay, Marshall, Pennington, Norman, Polk and Red Lake counties.  


Instruments on the airplane will passively detect the Earth’s naturally occurring magnetic field and radiation. This survey is one of several large airborne geophysical campaigns being conducted across various parts of the U.S. The surveys will help understand the geology over areas that may contain critical mineral-bearing deposit types. Data collected as part of this survey will be made public and used to guide more detailed geologic mapping at local scales. When the data analysis is complete, results will provide state-of-the-art, subsurface maps that will contribute to a wide range of 3D representations of the nation’s exposed and concealed geology.  


Flights will occur at an altitude of 400-500 feet above ground and will be flown in a grid pattern with north-south lines spaced about 800 feet (250 meters) apart and east-west lines flown about 1.6 miles (2.5 kilometers) apart. Experienced pilots specially trained and approved for low-level flying will operate the aircraft. All flights will occur during daylight hours and are coordinated with the Federal Aviation Administration to ensure accordance with U.S. law. The flights will be based out of Crookston, Minnesota, and Grand Forks, North Dakota.  

Map of Northwest Minnesota/North Dakota Low-Level Flights
Low-level flights will occur in the blue highlighted area of map, northwest Minnesota/North Dakota border.