Forward to this Special Issue on Drone Geophysics and Remote Sensing

Ron Bell
Guest Editor

Welcome to the Special Issue of the FastTIMES titled: Drone Geophysics and Remote Sensing. Within these covers are insightful articles providing into the rapidly evolving, energetically advancing world of drones employed in the service of mapping the surface and, most importantly, what lies within the subsurface of the earth. There are twelve invited articles along with the normal cadre of regular columns, many providing news and information about drones and their usage in the agriculture, environmental, geotechnical, infrastructure, UXO, and resource exeploration markets. In addition, there are editorials and opinion pieces on the state of EEGS and the profession of Near Surface Geophysics. In my humble opinion, the only word that comes close to describing this issue is EPIC. But then, as the Guest Editor, I will allow that I might be biased. Nevertheless, I have every confidence that you will find this issue not only informative but thoroughly thought provoking as you consider how to integrate drone geophysics and remote sensing into your work flow.
Up first is an article by Jan Franke titled The Future of Drone Geophysics. Jan provides an well studied overview on how drones are currently being applied to subsurface geophysical characterization, surface imaging using a remote sensing techniques, and the detection of gaseous emissions. I believe you will be amazed by the number of sensors available today for drone enabled geophysical and remote sensing surveys.
J.D. Hewson and his co-authors review the satellite sensor technology applied to mapping geology along with recent and upcoming developments in the satellite sensors and, most importantly, their adaption for use on drones in the appropriately titled Status and Developments in Geological Remote Sensing. Pivoting towards what some might consider a non-geophysical direction, Aaron Bufton reports on the technology advances and markets for methane mapping in UAV Methane Detection: Latest Advances and Current State of the Markets.
The next two articles are focused on use cases within the agricultural market. Triston Campbell and Peter Kearns describe the complimentary use of satellite and drone remote sensing data for assessing and predicting the health of bee populations in their article Honey from space: detection of flowering plants from satellites with UAV calibration. Barry Allred writes about UAVs equipped with thermal cameras to locate farmland irrigation drain tiles and the application of ground penetrating radar to verify the location in GPR and UAV Mapping of Agricultural Subsurface Drainage Systems: A Research Overview.
Ronald Koomans and Hans Limburg describe a revolutionary new gamma ray spectrometer for use on a drone in their article titled Drone-borne gamma ray spectrometry – a dream come true. In the following article, titled Semi-airborne Electromagnetics using a Multi-copter, Johannes Stoll and his coauthors provide a good description along with results of a resurrected and updated electromagnetic (EM) method based on the use of surface transmitter and the drone mounted receiver.
Jose Arce and his co-authors provide an excellent case history of a UAV magnetic survey applied to mineral resource exploration in the article titled The Rapsodia UAV Magnetometry Case History. Martin Helmke and George Schultz discuss the technology for accurate ultra-low altitude terrain following as it pertains to magnetic surveys for UXO in their article Effective UAS Terrain Following for UXO Magnetometry. This is followed by an intriguing article titled Multicopter-based Pentamag System Proves Our Realistic Performance Metrics in which Johannes Stoll and his co-authors describe in detail the development five (5) sensor magnetic mapping system designed for UXO detection and delineation.
The penultimate article of the issue is titled Mapping the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument – using dronebased LiDAR to uncover a 750-year old structures by Gert Riemersma. In the article, Gert demonstrates the efficacy of drone enabled LiDAR to detect and map what is otherwise difficult to discern variations in surface topography.
The final article in this special issue is titled UAS remote sensing and geophysics to investigate legacy wells, heat distribution, and subsidence at the coal mine fire in Centralia, Pennsylvania. Martin Helmke and his coauthors share the results of a drone-centric investigation into the subsurface geology and relevant infrastructure pertaining to an active underground coal mine fire. Though it is the last article of this issue, it should be viewed as a harbinger of what while be common practice in the not too distance future, i.e. the integrated use of photogrammetric, magnetic, thermal infrared, and LiDAR data collected via a UAV. It is worth your time to read every one of the articles described above.
While you are at it, please invest a few moments to read Barry Allred’s President’s Column on the direction of EEGS, Geoff Pettifer’s brief on the Silver Jubilee, and Associate Editor German Ojeda impressive review on the last 15 years of the FastTIMES. please do not overlook Dale Rucker’s report on the status of JEEG and the report on results of online auction fundraiser in the EEGS Foundation News.
Nigel Cassidy provides a fascinating report on many aspects including software relevant to the use for drones for infrastructure investigation in his Infrastructure and Geophysics News column. Abraham Emond in his Government Report details the availability of newly released public domain data.
Moe Momayez fills us in on the how drones are adding value and streamlining processes in the Mining Geophysics News column. Geoff Pettifer reports on the use of drones and remote sensing in his columns on Archeological and Forensics Geophysics and use of InSAR for subsidence monitoring related to groundwater withdrawal and the use of satellite and drone thermal imaging applied to groundwater discharge in the Hydrogeophysical and Environmental Geophysics column.
Angelo Lampousis reports on developments in the agriculture sectors in the Agricultural Geophysics News. Mohamed Amed delivers information on several important events in the Industry News column and Jeff Leberfinger reports on several events in the UXO Community News column.
In the geoDRONE Report©, I report on BVLOS in North Dakota, drones for mapping methane in the Permian Basin, and two sophisticated mission planning and control software programs applicable to drone geophysical surveys. In addition, I provide an update on several drone events including the Summit on Drone Geophysics.
I would be remiss if I did not point out that this issue would not be as EPIC if it were not for Geoff Pettifer, the Editor and Chief of the FastTIMES. This issue is the direct result of Geoff’s dedication, investment of an enormous amount of energy, and his visionary leadership. He, much more than me, deserves the credit for making this Special Issue of the FastTIMES a reality. Finally, most of all, please enjoy reading this issue.

  • Ron Bell
    We invite you to email your comments, suggestions, and criticisms about this issue to Geoff or/and me.
    Geoff Pettifer
    Ron Bell