India joins elite club with heliborne geo-survey capability

India on Wednesday became only the seventh nation to own a heliborne geophysical survey system (HGSS), which has been integrated on the advanced light helicopter's (ALH) latest version — Garuda Vasudha. 

The ALH, which is the brainchild of the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has been integrated with HGSS procured from Pico Envirotec Inc, Canada. 

The chopper was officially handed over to the Geological Survey of India (GSI), a body responsible for conducting geophysical survey under the ministry of mines and it costs Rs 73-crore. Although basic aircraft was delivered to the ministry of mines as early as in 2009, it took HAL and the GSI five years to procure and integrate the HGSS. 

"Only six other countries, Australia, UK, the US, South Africa, France and China have this. This will help us go beyond traditional methods of conducting geophysical surveys and will help us map our resources better," S K Wadhawan, Director General, GSI said. 

HAL Chairman R K Tyagi, while pointing out that Garuda Vasuda is equipped with state-of-the-art latest magnetic, spectrometric and gravity heliborne geophysical survey systems, said: "What we have handed over today is not just a copter but a dream." 

"For instance, India's net petroleum products import for 2012-13 was 137.35 mt costing Rs 5.34 lakh crore and if geo-survey benefits by one per cent, it would amount to reduction of import by Rs 5,000 crore," he said. 

Wadhawan said that this was as part of the GSI's modernisation plan, which had seen a ship to detect minerals under water — Samudra Ratnakara — commissioned in October last year. "We are also in the process of modernising our labs," he said. 

Besides the handing over of the Garuda Vasudha, the foundation stone of a Centre of Excellence Laboratory building of GSI, to be set up here was laid on Wednesday. 

Lot of surveying to be done 

The HGSS commissioned on Wednesday will have its first task at Hassan, where the chopper will look for copper, officials from the GSI said on the sidelines here. 

R Sridharan, Secretary, Ministry of Mines said that India, unlike countries like Australia which have completed 100 mapping of their resources, has a long way to go. "Only ten per cent of our country is mapped. We have a long way to go, and systems like these would help us expedite the process," he said. 

Garuda Vasudha is equipped to provide high resolution images, and has the ability to catch mineral signatures even 300 metre below the earth's surface. GSI, which has been using fixed wing aircraft for aerial surveying used to hire services from foreign countries for heliborne survey.

"This is the beginning, based on our experience and future requirement, we may go in for more of such helicopters," he said. 

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