Flight details

The helicopter will fly at 80-120 km/hr in parallel lines generally 175 to 200 m apart and at a height of approximately 100 m. The measurement instruments are suspended under the helicopter and will be about 30 – 50 m above the ground. The noise from the helicopter has been described as equivalent to a truck going past on a motorway and lasts for around two to four minutes. The helicopter flies up and down in lines, so once it flies over, it will then return approximately 15 minutes later but be around 200 m further away.

We will not be gathering data or information on anything above ground. While the helicopter will carry a camera, this is only to guide the crew managing the slung load, and no photos or video are retained or shared.

How does it work?

Transmitters on the loop under the helicopter send electromagnetic signals underground, and sensors measure the behaviour of the returning signals. Think of it as similar to radar, sending out and receiving signals.

The technology has been used commercially since 2004 to map large aquifer systems in countries including Denmark, Netherlands, India, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. In November and December 2022, it was used to survey aquifers in Northland and Southland.

Is it safe?

Yes, very safe. Because the helicopter is moving at high speed, there’s very limited exposure to the electromagnetic signals. It’s safer than watching a LCD or plasma TV or blow-drying your hair!

What about my animals?

The technology is safe to use above animals. Experience in other farming areas is that stock generally aren’t disturbed much by the technology. In New Zealand the team has observed that horses moved to the other side of the paddock when the system came very near.

What will the information be used for?

The information gathered by the helicopter and loop will take some time to process and analyse. Once available, it will provide a much better picture of the underground resource and reduce uncertainty to help guide decisions for environmental protection, development, resource consents, water management, and water availability for the local community

Who’s involved?

The project is being undertaken by Aqua Intel Aotearoa (a partnership between GNS Science and Kanoa, funded by the Provincial Growth Fund) and Gisborne District Council. The project has been planned in discussion with Te Runanganui o Ngāti Porou, Tāmanuhiri Tūtū Poroporo Trust, Te Aitanga a Māhaki Trust and Rongowhakaata Iwi Trust. All four iwi have indicated they support the objective of gathering scientific information to guide decision making. Iwi are involved in finalising data management and governance arrangements for accessing, storing and using the data for future purposes.

The SkyTEM data collection is being carried out by the international company SkyTEM in collaboration with the New Zealand helicopter company Heli A1.