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The helicopter has become a field tool equal in importance to the hammer and Brunton compass. The geologist by conventional means averages 75 to 99% of his time getting from one outcrop to another. Using a helicopter, he may spend nearly 100% of his time on the outcrop or in an incomparable grandstand seat. Despite daily costs averaging ten times those of conventional methods, the total cost (or cost per square mile) of a helicopter survey will in most cases be a half to a tenth that of a conventional ground survey. The intangible benefit of the method is higher quality because of the continuing ability of the geologist to see details accurately in relation to the overall picture.
For a successful exploration program, advance planning is essential, including selection of the helicopter operator, logistics and safety precautions. Perhaps more essential is geological planning. First, the geologists should be the most experienced men available. Second, advanced preparation should include, at the minimum, some kind of overall reconnaissance perhaps by helicopter or fixed-wing aircraft, but the desirable (and least costly) method is a complete photo-geologic study.
Field methods fall into two classes: "fly-mapping," where exposures are good and only occasional landings are necessary for ground checks; and support work where the helicopter is used to transport the geologist to and from the ends of ground traverses. Various combinations are adaptable so long as the program has utilized prudent advance planning and allows vital "office-mapping" to keep up with the progress of the field work. These methods have reached their greatest development in the tremendous field programs in Alaska and Canada, but the resultant savings in cost and increase in quality of work are just as possible and desirable on small jobs in our own backyards.
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