The Benefits of Airborne Magnetic Surveys

Understanding the Benefits of Airborne Magnetic Surveys

In order to understand the benefits of airborne magnetic surveys, it is important to realize the costs and time-consuming nature of mineral and petroleum exploration.  Acquiring quality airborne magnetic data can help to drastically reduce these costs and times.  These surveys make it possible to quickly gather detailed information about the presence of various magnetic and non-magnetic materials in the subsurface, and map structural geological features such as contacts, faults and folds over large geographical areas.    
Airborne magnetic surveys use aircraft outfitted with magnetometers to quickly and effectively measure variations in the earth's magnetic field over large areas.  Regional surveys with coarse line spacing are typically used as a preliminary method of prospecting, one of the first stages of the exploration process to understand more about the geology of a region.  Detailed surveys can then be flown with much tighter line spacing and lower altitude, typically covering smaller areas but providing higher resolution data.  Data from these surveys can be used to identify potential targets and areas of interest on mineral and petroleum exploration projects to better focus the more expensive drilling and ground exploration programs.  

Quality Equipment and Data Acquisition

The success of accurate airborne magnetic surveying and data acquisition is dependent on both the quality of the geophysical equipment and the configuration of the survey aircraft.  Both of these factors are influenced by the experience of the airborne survey company. Choosing an experienced geophysical survey company that possesses the latest geophysical sensor technology, along with their ability to maintain a magnetically "quiet” aircraft, and manned by experienced survey crews, results in the acquisition of better quality data.  With high quality airborne magnetic data, the exploration company will be able to economically and efficiently structure their overall exploration program.

Who Benefits from Airborne Magnetic Surveys?

Mineral and petroleum exploration are industries that benefit from airborne magnetic surveys.  Government agencies and other organizations that are interested in cost and time effective exploration of large areas also benefit from the magnetic datasets that are acquired. 

Applications of Airborne Magnetic Surveys


1. Prospecting for magnetic ores or host rocks.

  • magnetic iron deposits
  • chrome- or PGE-bearing ultramafic rocks
  • some massive sulphide bodies (usually nickel)
  • diamond-bearing kimberlites
  • tin-tungsten or rare-earths associated with granites

2. Geological mapping

  • lithologic and structural mapping in weathered or covered areas
  • sedimentary basin geometry and structure, mapping intrasedimentary sources
  • regional studies for tectonic purposes (e.g. crustal studies)
  • exploration for favourable ore environments

3. Depth to basement mapping

  • hydrocarbon exploration
  • ·non-metallic mineral exploration
  • exploration for minerals associated with buried basement surfaces (e.g. gold and unconformity uranium)

4. In conjunction with electromagnetics and induced polarization

  • to help discriminate between metallic and non-metallic conduction
  • to assist in interpretation of conductive or polarizable body geometry
  • to determine geological environment of source

5. Engineering, groundwater, hazard and archaeological studies

  • mapping faults and buried valleys
  • depth determination to the Curie point isotherm
  • mapping geothermal energy potential
  • searching for metallic objects

Specialists in Airborne Magnetic Surveys

Terraquest was established in 1984 and since then, our dedicated team has flown over 1,500 airborne geophysical surveys using both fixed wing and helicopter platforms.  Our professional crews provide significant experience having carried out airborne magnetic, gravity, gamma ray spectrometry, and electromagnetics on five continents.  Our quality data sets have been utilized in the exploration for base and precious metals, kimberlite, hydrocarbons, uranium, rare earth minerals and water. The company has performed exemplary surveys for both small and large exploration groups as well as many government agencies.  References can be provided upon request.    Visit

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