Low-flying airplane to study central UP geology

IRON MOUNTAIN – Residents and visitors may notice a low-flying airplane above the broader Iron Mountain-Escanaba-Marquette region starting in April.

U.S. Geological Survey scientists will conduct a high-resolution airborne survey to study the geology under a region of the central Upper Peninsula until as late as July.

The data will help USGS researchers improve their understanding of geology, including buried rock types and faults, in the region.

As part of this research, a low-flying airplane under contract to the USGS through EON Geosciences will be used. The aircraft will be operated by experienced pilots who are specially trained and approved for low-level flying.

All flights are coordinated with the Federal Aviation Administration to ensure accordance with United States law.

“This study will help the USGS and partnered scientists understand the region’s fundamental geology and tectonic history in much greater detail than is currently known,” said USGS scientist Benjamin Drenth, a Denver-based researcher leading the survey.

The airplane will carry instruments to measure variations in the earth’s magnetic field. Because different rock types vary in content of magnetic minerals, the resulting maps allow visualization of the geologic structure below the surface. The instruments carried on the aircraft only make passive measurements, and thus pose no health risk to humans or animals.

This survey will be flown in a grid pattern. North-south lines will be flown approximately 500 feet apart at elevations from 250 to 1,000 feet above the ground, and one mile apart in an east-west direction.

All survey flights will occur during daylight hours.

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