Gravionic, a specialist in the development of complex sensor systems, was awarded a €376 000 grant from the German government to mount its gravity and magnetic surveying equipment on to a gyrocopter for the first time.
Consequently, Gravionic’s collaborative partner, Namibia-focused oil and gas explorer Africa New Energies (ANE), has received a major boost.
Gravionic, a spin-off from the Institute of Flight Guidance and Control at Germany’s Technical University of Braunschweig, is a market leader in the use of gravity and magnetic data, using the gravitometer it pioneered to enhance traditional seismic surveys with additional information for the interpretation of subsurface geological structures.
As gravity readings are invariably higher from rock structures than other subsurface sedimentary layers, the gravitometer is able to build up a composite picture of the subsurface architecture, and thereby identify those formations most likely to host hydrocarbons with greater precision.
South African start-up Gyrotek plans to use gyrocopters mounted with Gravionic’s gravity and magnetic surveying technology to carry out passive seismic surveys on ANE’s 22 000 km2 concession in Namibia.
Gyrotek founder and director Brian Segoe found that existing airborne surveying services were prohibitively expensive and not fit for purpose.
Gyrotek conducted the surveys on fixed-wing aircraft that, for safety reasons, fly too high to be able to pick up subtle signals that indicate the presence of commercially extractable resources.
Additionally, the higher they flew, the more “atmospheric noise” contaminated the data.
After speaking with technical experts, Segoe found that emerging gyrocopter technology could provide the answer. “They cost less than a sixth of what a helicopter costs to operate, and can land vertically,” he said.
As the main rotor is self-propelled by air friction, not only are they safer than helicopters, but the vibration is minimised – further improving the quality of data, Segoe added.
Gravionic was quick to recognise the new surveying opportunities presented by the emergence of gyrocopters and entered into a collaborative partnership with Gyrotek and ANE.
The German grant will enable Gravionic to fund the deployment of the country’s top aeronautical scientists to develop the world’s first gyrocopter-mounted gravity surveying capability. The project will involve the modification of both the gyrocopter and the gravitometer – reducing the weight of the gravitometer by 40% to make room for other sensing equipment.
“The density of the rock reveals so many key insights, but there are only 150 gravitometers in the world, so you can imagine our delight when the Technical University of Braunchweich agreed to work with us to mount their gravitometer on our gyrocopter,” Segoe said.