A High-Speed, Light-Weight Scalar Magnetometer Bird for km Scale UAV Magnetic Surveying: On Sensor Choice, Bird Design, and Quality of Output Data

Arne Døssing*, Eduardo Lima Simões da Silva, Guillaume Martelet, Thorkild Maack Rasmussen, Eric Gloaguen, Jacob Thejll Petersen, Johannes Linde

*Corresponding author for this work

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Magnetic surveying is a widely used and cost-efficient remote sensing method for the detection of subsurface structures at all scales. Traditionally, magnetic surveying has been conducted as ground or airborne surveys, which are cheap and provide large-scale consistent data coverage, respectively. However, ground surveys are often incomplete and slow, whereas airborne surveys suffer from being inflexible, expensive and characterized by a reduced signal-to-noise ratio, due to increased sensor-to-source distance. With the rise of reliable and affordable survey-grade Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), and the developments of light-weight magnetometers, the shortcomings of traditional magnetic surveying systems may be bypassed by a carefully designed UAV-borne magnetometer system. Here, we present a study on the development and testing of a light-weight scalar field UAV-integrated magnetometer bird system (the CMAGTRES-S100). The idea behind the CMAGTRES-S100 is the need for a high-speed and flexible system that is easily transported in the field without a car, deployable in most terrain and weather conditions, and provides high-quality scalar data in an operationally efficient manner and at ranges comparable to sub-regional scale helicopter-borne magnetic surveys. We discuss various steps in the development, including (i) choice of sensor based on sensor specifications and sensor stability tests, (ii) design considerations of the bird, (iii) operational efficiency and flexibility and (iv) output data quality. The current CMAGTRES-S100 system weighs ∼5.9 kg (including the UAV) and has an optimal surveying speed of 50 km/h. The system was tested along a complex coastal setting in Brittany, France, targeting mafic dykes and fault contacts with magnetite infill and magnetite nuggets (skarns). A 2.0 × 0.3 km area was mapped with a 10 m line-spacing by four sub-surveys (due to regulatory restrictions). The sub-surveys were completed in 3.5 h, including >2 h for remobilisation and the safety clearance of the area. A noise-level of ±0.02 nT was obtained and several of the key geological structures were mapped by the system.
Original languageEnglish
Article number649
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number4
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Copyright: © 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license
(https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/ 4.0/).


  • Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)
  • Drone
  • Scalar magnetometer
  • Magnetometer bird
  • Magnetic anomaly
  • Mineral exploration


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