Absolute airborne gravimetry with a cold atom sensor

Yannick Bidel*, Nassim Zahzam, Alexandre Bresson, Cédric Blanchard, Malo Cadoret, Arne V. Olesen, René Forsberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Measuring gravity from an aircraft is essential in geodesy, geophysics and exploration. It fills a gap between satellite techniques which have a low spatial resolution and traditional ground measurements which can only be performed on ground in accessible areas. Today, only relative sensors are available for airborne gravimetry. This is a major drawback because of the calibration and drift estimation procedures which lead to important operational constraints and measurement errors. Here, we report an absolute airborne gravimeter based on atom interferometry. This instrument has been first tested on a motion simulator leading to gravity measurements noise of 0.3 mGal for 75 s filtering time constant. Then, we realized an airborne campaign across Iceland in April 2017. From repeated line and crossing points, we obtain gravity measurements with an estimated error between 1.7 and 3.9 mGal. The airborne measurements have also been compared to upward continued ground gravity data and show differences with a standard deviation ranging from 3.3 to 6.2 mGal and a mean value ranging from − 0.7 to − 1.9 mGal.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20
JournalJournal of Geodesy
Issue number2
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Gravimeter
  • Absolute
  • Airborne
  • Atom interferometry

Cite this

Bidel, Y., Zahzam, N., Bresson, A., Blanchard, C., Cadoret, M., Olesen, A. V., & Forsberg, R. (2020). Absolute airborne gravimetry with a cold atom sensor. Journal of Geodesy, 94(2), [20]. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00190-020-01350-2