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A UAV-based magnetic survey method to detect and identify orphaned oil and gas wells


Recent advances in autonomous unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology, along with successful efforts to miniaturize total field magnetometers, offer a unique opportunity to test low-cost UAV-mounted systems for wide-area high-resolution magnetic surveys.

Modern UAV platforms capable of flying at low altitudes and collecting dense aerial surveys, coupled with sensitive and compact instruments, allow identification of anthropogenic targets previously identifiable only in ground magnetometer surveys.

We present results of a proof-of-concept study focused on developing and field testing a UAV-based magnetometer system to detect and identify abandoned and unmarked oil and gas wells in an area of historical hydrocarbon exploration and development in New York state.

Our results indicate that magnetic anomalies associated with metal casing of vertical wells are pronounced considerably above background levels both at the surface and up to 50 m above-ground elevation.

We determine that a detection altitude of 40 m is optimal to avoid any canopy interference while recording magnetic data at the highest signal-

This publication has been adapatated by Cédric Giboulot for 's readers.

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