In January 1990, a test of the feasibility of airborne gravimetry from a small geophysical survey aircraft, a Cessna 404, was conducted over the Long Island Sound using a Bell Aerospace BGM-3 sea gravity meter. Gravity has been measured from large aircraft and specially modified de Havilland Twin Otters but never from small, standard survey aircraft. The gravity field of the Long Island Sound is dominated by an asymmetric positive 30 mGal anomaly which is well constrained by both marine and land gravity measurements. Using a Trimble 4000 GPS receiver to record the aircraft's horizontal position and radar altimeter elevations to recover the vertical accelerations, gravity anomalies along a total of 65 km were successfully measured. The root mean square (rms) difference between the airborne results and marine measurements within 2 km of the flight path was 2.6 mGal for 15 measured values. The anomalies recovered from airborne gravimetry can also be compared with the gridded regional free air gravity field calculated using all available marine and land gravity measurements. The rms difference between 458 airborne gravity measurements and the regional gravity field is 2.7 mGal. This preliminary experiment demonstrates that gravity anomalies, with wavelengths as short as 5 km, can be measured from small aircraft with accuracies of 2.7 mGal or better. The gravity measurements could be improved by higher quality vertical and horizontal positioning and tuning the gravimeter's stabilized platform for aircraft use.
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