Optimization of UAV-borne Aeromagnetic Surveying in Mineral Exploration

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Walter, Callum
Aeromagnetics , UAV , Mineral Exploration , UAV-borne Aeromagnetic System , Drone , UAV Electromagnetic Interference , Unmanned Aerial Vehicle , Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems , RPAS , Near-Surface Geophysics , Geophysics , Magnetometry
The main objective of this research is to conduct a detailed analysis of the design, integration, and application of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) aeromagnetic surveys for improved target characterization in mineral exploration. Specifically, the design and viability of a suspended, semi-rigid magnetometer mounting system integrated on multi-rotor UAVs is investigated. Although a semi-rigid mount offers some technical benefits over other mounting techniques, its practical implementation allowing for the collection of industry standard aeromagnetic data has proven to be quite challenging due to the numerous interrelated optimization factors that can adversely affect either the UAV platforms maneuverability and stabilization, or the magnetometers data quality. To address and characterize these challenges, a general procedure involving empirical lab and field tests was developed to collect and analyse numerous parameters used to assess the performance of the developed UAV-borne aeromagnetic system. Specifically, this involved characterizing the frequency and amplitude of a variety of magnetic interference signals and developing solutions to mitigate adverse effects on the UAV-borne aeromagnetic data quality. Ultimately, the main motivation of this work is to lay the technical foundation demonstrating and establishing UAV-borne aeromagnetic systems as a trusted and viable geophysical surveying technique. Therefore, this research is aimed at describing and bringing to the forefront some of the key issues that affect the achievable resolution and quality of UAV-borne aeromagnetic data, as well as outlining practical solutions, both from a technical and data processing standpoint. Building upon the development, integration, and characterization of the UAV-borne aeromagnetic system, a 3D UAV-borne aeromagnetic survey was conducted over a mineral exploration target to demonstrate the benefits and best practices of employing this innovative form of geophysical surveying compared to the conventional methods of terrestrial and manned aeromagnetic surveying. Overall, the analysis of the critical factors governing the design, integration, and application of UAV-borne aeromagnetic systems presented herein provides valuable insight to be used for the successful deployment and future development of UAV-borne aeromagnetic and electromagnetic systems in mineral exploration applications.
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