Submarine Gravity Surveys Using Airborne Gravimeter Technology
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Jan 1, 2008
The acquisition of submarine gravity data using airborne gravity technology is a practical reality. Ocean Floor Geophysics plans to deploy a free-swimming ROV based submarine gravimeter on a commercial basis in early 2009. The submarine instrument is a variant of the well-used GT-1A airborne gravimeter. Airborne gravity surveys are now routine. The primary factor controlling the accuracy of airborne gravimeters is the precision of the GPS measurement of vertical movement of the sensor platform. The gravity measurements along a flight line are the differences between the output of the gravimeter vertical accelerometer and the estimate of the aircraft vertical acceleration using the differential GPS system. The principle difficulty of moving an airborne gravimeter to a free-swimming submarine platform is the necessity to have an accurate real time estimate of the changing elevation and hence changing vertical acceleration of the platform; GPS doesn't work underwater and an accurate estimate of depth fluctuations to the necessary precision is difficult to acquire. It is interesting that the airborne gravity gradiometer technology, which competes with the airborne gravity technology, was first developed as a classified military application for use by missile submarines during the cold war. Gradiometers were developed for this application specifically to avoid this problem. A gradiometer does not require as accurate an estimate of its vertical position to make a useful reading- it measures gravity gradients, not the gravity field itself.