FARGO - If you notice a strange helicopter in the sky next week, don't be alarmed.

The North Dakota State Water Commission is planning to conduct an aerial electromagnetic survey of aquifers in parts of Benson, Ramsey, Eddy, Nelson, LaMoure, Dickey and Sargent counties.

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The survey is scheduled to begin the week of Monday, Oct. 15, and involves a helicopter towing a large hoop-shaped antenna about 100 feet above the ground that sends and receives electromagnetic signals to characterize geology beneath the land surface. The process involves advanced technology that allows for detailed and rapid data collection of aquifers.

The results of the survey will provide imagery and characteristics of the subsurface materials that can aid in the mapping of the buried glacial aquifer deposits that contain major groundwater supplies.

The flight survey will include about 3,000 flight kilometers flown in a grid pattern with primarily east-west trending flight lines spaced 500 to 2,000 meters apart. Two separate blocks will be flown. The first being a 100-square-mile area extending from west and north of Tolna, to the east end of Devils Lake. The second being a 600-square-mile area from near Montpelier, south and east to the South Dakota state line. The project is expected to take about four weeks to complete.

The primary contractor performing the work is Geotech Airborne from Aurora, Ontario, Canada. The helicopter will be manned by experienced pilots who are specially trained for low-level flying with this equipment and all operations will be conducted within Federal Aviation Administration Regulations.