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Aeromagnetic Surveying with a Rotary-Wing Unmanned Aircraft System: A Case Study from a Zinc Deposit in Nash Creek, New Brunswick, Canada

Abstract

Unmanned aircraft systems (UASs) have been under rapid development for applications in the mineral exploration industry, mainly for aeromagnetic surveying. They provide improved detection of smaller, deeper and weaker magnetic targets. A traditional system flying an altitude of 100 m above ground level (AGL) can detect a spherical ore body with a radius of ~ 16 m and a magnetic susceptibility of 10−4 buried at a depth of 40 m. A UAS flying at an altitude of 50 or 2 m AGL would require the radius to be 11 or 5 m, respectively. A demonstration survey was performed using the SkyLance rotary-wing UAS instrumented with a cesium vapour magnetometer in Nash Creek, New Brunswick, Canada. The UAS flew over a zinc deposit featuring three magnetic anomalies. It acquired repeatable data that compared well with upward continuation maps of ground magnetic data. Dykes or faults that are dipping eastward at 25° and are approximately 1.5 m wide fit the observed response of the three anomalies captured on the UAS magnetic data.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Dr. Bernd Milkereit from the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Toronto for facilitating access to the Nash Creek property as well as lending us the use of his ground magnetic survey equipment. We also thank Andrew Hay from Carleton University for assisting with the ground magnetic survey data collection. This project was partially funded through an ENGAGE grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) to C. Samson.

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Correspondence to Michael Cunningham.

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Cunningham, M., Samson, C., Wood, A. et al. Aeromagnetic Surveying with a Rotary-Wing Unmanned Aircraft System: A Case Study from a Zinc Deposit in Nash Creek, New Brunswick, Canada. Pure Appl. Geophys. 175, 3145–3158 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00024-017-1736-2

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Keywords

  • Unmanned aircraft systems
  • Magnetics
  • Airborne surveying
  • Mineral exploration