CHAMPAIGN COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — People in Champaign County will see an interesting sight in the skies over the next few weeks.

Starting Saturday, a helicopter will be flying over the area while carrying a large coil frame beneath it. It’s all part of a geological imaging project by the Illinois State Geological Survey.

The ISGS chapter at the University of Illinois is using the coil frame to create a 3D picture of the Mahomet aquifer. The magnetic exposure from the equipment can penetrate the ground up to 1,000 feet below the surface. There will be no safety risks to people.

“This is a big step forward for the Champaign County community in better understanding our water resources,” said Kisa Mwakanyamale, an ISGS geophysicist. “This advanced technology is a safe and cost-effective way for Champaign County to get precision imaging below ground.”

The helicopter is planned to fly in parallel lines at approximately 100 to 250 feet above the ground. The noise at any given location is described as being the equivalent of a truck traveling past on a highway and will last for two to four minutes.

The helicopter will fly over the rural areas of the county only. As steel buildings interfere with the electromagnetic charge, the helicopters will not fly over developed or highly populated areas. That includes the towns of Champaign, Urbana and Savoy.

Officials said that scientists and the ISGS and the Illinois State Water Survey have studied the aquifer for decades to address issues such as water quality and supply. This latest study will fill in the gaps in the understanding of the geological framework of water resources in Champaign County and allow researchers to provide a more accurate local estimate about the aquifer’s long-term sustainability.

“This project implements rapid and state-of-the-art science-based research to resolve aquifer characteristics in three dimensions, which will ultimately help water-resource scientists improve predictions of its long-term sustainability and security,” said Jason Thomason, an ISGS geologist.

“Potable water is vital for public health and safety and essential for agricultural and industrial economy in perpetuity,” said Chris Stohr, Champaign County Board member, District 10. “Residents of urban and rural Champaign County know that their drinking water comes from the Mahomet aquifer and that it is the sole source of water for much of East Central Illinois.”

Additional information about the project is available online.