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Bureau Seminar, April 25, 2014

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Digital Outcrop Models of Carbonate Reservoir Analogs

Streaming video of this seminar begins at 8:55am April 25, 2014.

Chris Zahm
Research Associate, Bureau of Economic Geology
University of Texas at Austin

Digital outcrop models have evolved in the past three decades and have allowed geoscientists to interrogate critical geospatial relationships with high levels of accuracy and provide insight into subsurface reservoirs. The introduction of commercial unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) provides a unique opportunity for improved digital outcrop model development, especially when coupled with photogrammetry which allows for 3D point cloud development from overlapping photographs. UAVs are relatively inexpensive; the key technologies that drive improvements have rapid development cycles; and can be used to develop accurate and informative outcrop models.

The western coast of West Caicos, BWI is an extraordinary 6 km long exposure both in terms of preserving depositional facies and displaying extensive early fracture development in Pleistocene carbonate strata. UAVs and real-time kinematic GPS were used to generate an integrated map and 3D model of fractures within a framework of depositional facies. Preliminary results from this study have demonstrated a critical link between facies and fracture style, intensity and orientation. Early formed fractures occur in both the margin parallel and perpendicular direction with preferential development in the grainstones of the upper shore face and foreshore facies. Early fracture systems also play a fundamental role in the orientation of easily identified spur and groove systems exquisitely captured by the UAV photos.

UAV applications are revolutionary in the ability to acquire previously unattainable high-resolution photographs in an economic and safe environment. With new UAV applications seemingly appearing every day, the drone-age is upon us and they mark the next generation in state of the art digital outcrop models.



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