Low-flying aircraft is doing research under contract to the U.S. Geological Survey

Residents in the Maricopa area should expect to see a low-flying helicopter towing a large hoop hanging from a cable as it flies over the southern San Joaquin Valley.
The helicopter is under contract to the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the California State Water Resources Control Board and it will be collecting and recording geophysical measurements for scientific research purposes, including a survey of groundwater and geology.

The work is expected to start early November and will last about 1 or 2 weeks with a low-flying helicopter towing a large instrument collecting and recording geophysical measurements for scientific research purposes. Surveys will not occur directly over populated areas.

The helicopter-born geophysical system will collect measurements in the southern San Joaquin Valley, with focused efforts just east of the town of Maricopa, California. The survey entails flying relatively low to the ground (hundreds of feet above the surface) over pre-planned grids of flight lines. A sensor that resembles a large hula-hoop will be towed beneath the helicopter to measure tiny voltages that can be used to map properties of the Earth’s subsurface. Data collected during this survey will be analyzed by USGS scientists and used to map groundwater salinity and aquifer properties.

SkyTEM ApS, a specialty airborne geophysical company, will conduct the survey. Experienced pilots, who are specially trained for low-level flying required for geophysical surveys, will be operating the helicopter. The company works with the Federal Aviation Administration to ensure flights are in accordance with U.S. law.

This survey is a continuation of groundwater salinity and aquifer mapping efforts that began in 2016 near Lost Hills, Buttonwillow, and Cawelo. More information about this project is available from the USGS California Oil Gas and Groundwater (COGG) website. and the California State Water Resources Control Board.