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Low-Level Flights to Image 3D Geology in Northern Arkansas

October 21, 2019

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.

Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey and the Arkansas Geological Survey are partnering to image geology using airborne technology as part of the USGS Earth Mapping Resource Initiative (Earth MRI) project and the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program

The USGS is contracting with EON Geosciences to conduct the survey, which will fly over all or parts of 15 counties in northern Arkansas. The planes and crew will be based out of the Branson Airport in Hollister, Missouri.  Weather permitting, the survey will begin mid-October and conclude in December.

Two Piper Navajo airplanes will be mounted with passive sensors that measure variations in the Earth’s natural magnetic field. These variations are created by different rock types up to several miles beneath the surface. The magnetic sensor will be mounted on a tail stinger off the back of the aircraft. Each plane will also include sensors inside the aircraft that measure soil and rock chemistry at the surface. None of the instruments carried on the aircraft pose a health risk to people or animals. The aircraft will be flown by experienced pilots that are specially trained and approved for low-level flying. All flights are coordinated with the FAA to ensure flights are in accordance with U.S. law.

EON Geosciences Piper Navajo Airplane with Tail Stinger Magnetometer
A Piper Navajo airplane with tail stinger magnetometer in flight. 

The northern Arkansas survey will be flown at elevations approximately 80 to 300 meters, or about 260 to 1,000 feet, above ground in a grid pattern along north-south flight lines spaced approximately 200 meters, or 650 feet, apart. East-west flight lines will be spaced 3,000 meters, or 9,800 feet, apart. All survey flights will occur during daylight hours. 

Data collected for this survey is part of a national-scale effort to acquire modern, high-resolution airborne magnetic and radiometric data. The survey will replace existing lower-quality geophysical data, collected mostly in the 1980s, that is of limited use for geologic mapping. The new geophysical survey will use the latest technological developments that will allow the USGS to create high-resolution 3D representations of geology to depths several miles below the surface. The 3D models and maps produced from the survey will help understand the distribution of groundwater, mineral and energy resources as well as the potential for natural hazards. Data collected as part of the Arkansas survey will be made public and used by USGS and Arkansas Geological Survey scientists to guide more detailed geologic mapping at local scales. 

Related Science: Ozark Dome-Arkoma Basin-Ouachita Transect Project (ODABOuT)

Flight Area Map for Northern Arkansas Low-Level Flight
Flight area map for northern Arkansas low-level flight. Survey will occur in northwest portion of state over parts of 15 counties. Area to be flown indicated by red outline.

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