Southwest Research Institute is offering new drone-based, remote-sensing techniques to digitally map and model exposed geologic structures, or outcrops, to better understand subsurface structures associated with petroleum and water reservoirs.
Through digital photogrammetry — reconstructing real-world objects in 3D from overlapping digital images — SwRI can extract accurate and reliable geologic information.
“These new techniques allow us to create ‘virtual’ outcrops or digital outcrop models (DOMs), a digital 3D representation of the outcrop surface,” said Adam Cawood, who recently joined SwRI after receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Aberdeen (United Kingdom). “We are developing new drone-based, remote-sensing techniques to allow cost-effective 3D modeling and analysis of the Earth’s surface. The information we extract from these models will help us to better understand conditions below ground.”
The technique allows computer-based geological interpretation and data extraction where conventional fieldwork may be impractical or unsafe. Drone-based techniques have the potential to substantially increase the amount of geological data that can be collected from field localities.
By using this data-driven approach, SwRI geologists will be able to capture the statistical properties of fault, fracture and fold networks to study geological settings below ground. This will improve understanding of hydrocarbon reservoirs, aquifers and potential sites for geological storage such as carbon dioxide.
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