Noise reduction for airborne gravity gradiometer instrumentation

4 May 2012
Gary Barnes

ARKeX is a geophysical exploration company that conducts airborne gravity gradiometer surveys for the oil industry. By measuring the variations in the gravity field it is possible to infer valuable information about the sub-surface geology and help find prospective areas.

A new type of gravity gradiometer instrument is being developed to have higher resolution than the current technology. The basic operating principles are fairly simple - essentially measuring the relative displacement of two proof masses in response to a change in the gravity field. The challenge is to be able to see typical signals from geological features in the presence of large amounts of motional noise due to the aircraft. Fortunately, by making a gradient measurement, a lot of this noise is cancelled by the instrument itself. However, due to engineering tolerances, the instrument is not perfect and residual interference remains in the measurement.

Accelerometers and gyroscopes record the motional disturbances and can be used to mathematically model how the noise appears in the instrument and remove it during a software processing stage. To achieve this, we have employed methods taken from the field of system identification to produce models having typically 12 inputs and a single output. Generally, the models contain linear transfer functions that are optimised during a training stage where controlled accelerations are applied to the instrument in the absence of any anomalous gravity signal. After training, the models can be used to predict and remove the noise from data sets that contain signals of interest.

High levels of accuracy are required in the noise correction schemes to achieve the levels of data quality required for airborne exploration. We are therefore investigating ways to improve on our existing methods, or find alternative techniques. In particular, we believe non-linear and non-stationary models show benefits for this situation.

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