Even Shallower Exploration with Airborne Electromagnetics

Wednesday, 16 December 2015: 16:00
3024 (Moscone West)
Esben Auken, Aarhus University, Institute for Geoscience, Aarhus, Denmark
Airborne electromagnetics (EM) is in many ways undergoing the same type rapid technological development as seen in the telecommunication industry. These developments are driven by a steadily increasing demand for exploration of minerals, groundwater and geotechnical targets. The latter two areas demand shallow and accurate resolution of the near surface geology in terms of both resistivity and spatial delineation of the sedimentary layers.

Airborne EM systems measure the grounds electromagnetic response when subject to either a continuous discrete sinusoidal transmitter signal (frequency domain) or by measuring the decay of currents induced in the ground by rapid transmission of transient pulses (time domain). In the last decade almost all new developments of both instrument hardware and data processing techniques has focused around time domain systems.

Here we present a concept for measuring the time domain response even before the transient transmitter current has been turned off. Our approach relies on a combination of new instrument hardware and novel modeling algorithms. The newly developed hardware allows for measuring the instruments complete transfer function which is convolved with the synthetic earth response in the inversion algorithm. The effect is that earth response data measured while the transmitter current is turned off can be included in the inversion, significantly increasing the amount of available information.

We demonstrate the technique using both synthetic and field data. The synthetic examples provide insight on the physics during the turn off process and the field examples document the robustness of the method. Geological near surface structures can now be resolved to a degree that is unprecedented to the best of our knowledge, making airborne EM even more attractive and cost-effective for exploration of water and minerals that are crucial for the function of our societies.