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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.

RESTON, Va. — A low-flying airplane imaging geology using airborne geophysical technology will soon be visible to residents in parts of northwestern New York. The survey will begin in mid-September and last potentially through the summer of 2024, weather permitting. The flights will cover an area of about 3000 square miles within parts of Franklin, St. Lawrence, Jefferson, and Lewis counties.

The airplane will fly along pre-planned fight paths relatively low to the ground at about 300 feet (100 meters) above the surface. The ground clearance will be increased to 1,000 feet (300+ meters) over populated areas in compliance with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations.

Image shows a street map of Upstate New York with the survey area marked in a black polygon
A map of the area where the survey will be conducted.

The flights are being coordinated by the U.S. Geological Survey and the New York Geological Survey. Their goal is to image geology at the surface and below ground. The data collected will be made freely available to the public once complete.

The effort is part of the Earth Mapping Resources Initiative (Earth MRI), a nationwide collaboration between the USGS and state geologists to modernize our understanding of the nation’s fundamental geologic framework through new geologic maps, geophysical and topographic surveys, and geochemical sampling. Recent funding by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has facilitated coverage of such a large area. This is the first time in more than 45 years a public high-resolution survey was flown in these areas.

Image shows a small, single-engine fixed-wing aircraft with a stinger sticking out the back of its tail. The airplane sits on an airport tarmac under a blue sky.
Photo of one the airplanes that will be used. Photo by Xcalibur Multiphysics.

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 with no emissions that pose a risk to humans, animals, or plant life. No photography or video data will be collected.

This survey will be flown by contractor Xcalibur Multiphysics via a subcontract to Fugro. 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 Federal Aviation Administration to ensure accordance with U.S. law. The flights will be based out of Watertown International Airport (KART), Postdam Municipal/Damon Field Airport (KPTD), or Ogdensburg International Airport (KOGS).

More information on USGS mineral resources research can be found here. To stay up to date on USGS mineral resources data and reports, follow us on Twitter.

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