A drone magnetometer is a specialised sensor or instrument mounted on a drone (unmanned aerial vehicle) to measure variations in the Earth’s magnetic field. It is designed to detect changes in the magnetic field’s strength and direction at different locations.
Explaining the workings of a drone magnetometer
The Earth’s magnetic field is not uniform; it varies slightly due to geological features, buried objects, or magnetic minerals in the Earth’s crust. A drone magnetometer consists of a magnetic sensor, often a magnetoresistive or fluxgate magnetometer, which can measure even subtle changes in magnetic intensity.
When the drone flies over an area, the magnetometer records magnetic data at various points. Variations in the magnetic field caused by underground ferrous (iron-containing) objects, geological formations, or other anomalies are detected by the magnetometer. The data variations are then plotted and analysed on a software tool to identify the particular purpose for which the drone flight was carried out.
The magnetometer embedded in drones is used for a variety of applications like finding buried metal objects, mapping mineral resources, mapping utility, and carrying out aerial surveillance.
Features of a drone magnetometer
Here are the crucial features of a magnetometer you should consider before you take a UAV magnetometer for hire.
- Sample rate: The number of readings recorded per second is called the sample rate. It is important for a successful drone survey operation to use a magnetometer. The MagDrone R3/R4 provides a 200 Hz standard sampling rate.
- Flight time: This feature is the most important part of the drone operation. Your survey could be conducted over inaccessible terrains covering a large area. You need to time your drone flight accordingly to cover the area exhaustively. MagDrone R3 provides approx. 35 minutes of flight time.
- Noise: When the drone makes a flight, it emits a particular high-frequency noise that could affect the data interpretation. Fluctuations are also recorded by the magnetometer sensors. The unwanted noise up to 15nT can be filtered using the SENSYS data tool.
- Battery: Taking the battery life of the drone into account is important while carrying out critical surveying operations. There are drones that are cable-charged as well as others that have their own rechargeable battery. The MagDrone R4, for instance, has its own rechargeable battery. Choose a drone depending on the accessibility of the terrain and its flight time.
- Pass Width: MagDrone R3 delivers 1.5m pass and is light and compact at 1.2kg. MagDrone R4 delivers 2.5m pass for less than 3kg weight.
Applications of drone magnetometer
From mineral resource identification and detecting landmines, the applications of the magnetometer are diverse. Here are some versatile applications of a drone magnetometer.
- Utility Mapping: Drones equipped with magnetometers are used for utility mapping to locate and map underground utility lines such as pipes and cables. The magnetometer measures variations in the Earth’s magnetic field caused by ferrous materials like metal pipes. By flying a drone equipped with a magnetometer over an area, it can detect deviations in the magnetic field, pinpointing the location of buried utilities. This information is crucial for construction projects to avoid damaging existing infrastructure and for maintenance purposes.
- Sediment Analysis: In sediment analysis, drone magnetometers are used to study the composition of underwater sediments, particularly in bodies of water. Different types of sediments have varying magnetic properties due to the presence of magnetic minerals like iron. A drone with a magnetometer can collect magnetic data from above the water’s surface, helping researchers map the distribution of different sediment types. This information aids in environmental studies, resource assessment, and understanding of geological processes in aquatic environments.
- Finding Buried Objects: Drone magnetometers are employed to locate buried objects such as historical artifacts, pipelines, or unexploded ordnance (UXOs). Ferrous materials like metal objects disrupt the Earth’s magnetic field, creating local anomalies. A drone equipped with a magnetometer can detect these anomalies, enabling the identification and precise mapping of buried objects. This is valuable for archaeology, infrastructure maintenance, and clearing hazardous areas.
- Mineral Exploration: In mineral exploration, drone magnetometers assist in the discovery of ore deposits containing magnetic minerals. These minerals, such as iron, nickel, or magnetite, create distinctive magnetic signatures. Drones equipped with magnetometers can fly over large areas, collecting magnetic data that geologists use to identify potential mineral deposits. This technology enhances the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of mineral exploration.
- Area Surveillance and Clearance Operations: Drone magnetometers have applications in area surveillance and security. They can be used to detect hidden weapons or metal objects in public areas, enhancing security measures. The magnetometer data helps security personnel identify potential threats and respond accordingly.
- Detecting UXOs (Unexploded Ordnance): UXOs, which are leftover explosives from past conflicts, pose significant risks in certain areas. Drone magnetometers are employed for UXO detection by sensing the magnetic anomalies created by buried explosives. This technology aids in identifying and safely removing UXOs, reducing the threat to human lives and the environment.
In summary, drone magnetometers are versatile tools with various applications, from mapping utilities and analysing sediments to locating buried objects, exploring minerals, enhancing surveillance, and detecting hazardous UXOs. Their ability to detect magnetic anomalies is invaluable in numerous fields, providing critical data for decision-making and safety. If you want to conduct an aerial survey for a specific subsurface assignment, you should consider a UAV magnetometer for hire.