SOMEWHERE ABOVE US (WHTM) — Starting this month, the U.S. Geological Survey will begin conducting low-level flights with airplanes and helicopters over parts of Pennsylvania-including the Midstate.

Photo of one the airplanes that will be used. The “boom” that extends behind the aircraft contains a magnetic sensor. Photo by Sander Geophysical Laboratories, used with permission. (USGS)

It’s all part of an effort to improve understanding of the nation’s underlying geology.

Get daily news, weather, breaking news and alerts straight to your inbox! Sign up for the abc27 newsletters here

The aircraft contains instruments to measure Earth’s magnetic field, as well as natural low-level radiation from different rock types-measurements that can penetrate up to several miles beneath the surface. Scientists can use this information to develop geologic maps in three dimensions. Such 3-D maps will help evaluate natural resources, groundwater, and even the potential for earthquakes.

Photo of one of the helicopters that will be used.  The “boom” in front of the helicopter contains a magnetic sensor. It is placed in the boom to reduce the effects of the helicopter’s own magnetic field. Photo by Sander Geophysical Laboratories, used with permission. (USGS)

This survey will be flown at an altitude of 300 to 1,000 feet above the ground by pilots who are specially trained for low-level flying. Flights will take place during daylight hours only, in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration. The aircraft will fly out of Cumberland, Maryland.

The scientific instruments on the airplane are completely passive. They emit no emissions and therefore pose no risk to humans, animals, or plant life. (No photographs or videos are being collected.)

The flights are part of the Earth Mapping Resources Initiative (Earth MRI), a nationwide collaboration between the USGS and state geologists.

The airplane survey will take place within the polygon on the map, which covers parts of Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. (USGS)

The area to be mapped includes parts of Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Areas to be surveyed in Pennsylvania include Adams, Armstrong, Bedford, Berks, Blair, Cambria, Chester, Clearfield, Cumberland, Dauphin, Fayette, Franklin, Fulton, Huntingdon, Indiana, Jefferson, Lancaster, Lebanon, Somerset, Westmoreland, and York Counties. Depending on the weather, the survey could continue through January 2023.