USGS announces low-flying helicopter survey of Illinois River Basin

A low-flying helicopter towing a geophysical device collects scientific data for salinity and...
A low-flying helicopter towing a geophysical device collects scientific data for salinity and aquifer mapping.(United States Geological Survey)
Published: Jan. 19, 2023 at 2:34 PM CST
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(25 News Now) - The United State Geological Service has announced a study of the Illinois River Basin that will involve a low-flying helicopter.

The USGS says it will start on or around January 24 and last 3-4 weeks with a large hoop suspended from a helicopter that will fly around the state covering much of Central Illinois and parts of northwest Indiana.

Illinois River Basin low-level flight overview
Illinois River Basin low-level flight overview(United States Geological Survey)

The helicopter will fly along pre-planned flight paths relatively low to the ground, hundreds of feet above the surface. A sensor that resembles a large hula-hoop will be towed beneath to measure tiny electromagnetic signals that can be used to map features below Earth’s surface, according to the USGS.

Most survey flight lines will be separated by about 12 miles, so the helicopter system will only be visible from any particular location for a short period of time.

Geophysical measurements will be collected by the helicopter as part of the U.S. Geological Survey Next Generation Water Observing System (NGWOS) project to support studies of groundwater in the Illinois River Basin. This study expands on similar work done last year in the upper part of the Basin around southeastern Wisconsin.

The survey will be conducted by SkyTEM, a specialty airborne geophysical company, through a USGS contract with Woolpert.

The helicopter will be operated by experienced pilots from LiveWire Aviation who are specially trained for the low-level flying required for geophysical surveys. The company works with the FAA to ensure flights are safe and in accordance with U.S. law.