Celebrating 35 Years
Leading the World of Magnetics

Portable EM Instruments

NEW AFMAG Audio-Frequency Magnetics

GEM’s AFMAG systems use atmospheric EM sources with great depth of investigation, for ground portable and airborne EM surveys.

Very Low Frequency Electromagnetics

Ground and Airborne VLF Solutions

Very Low Frequency Electromagnetics (VLF) is a geophysical ground probing technology that utilizes VLF signals in the 15 to 30 kHz range normally used for communication with submarines. The signal generated is suitable for making geophysical measurements globally.

VLF is an electromagnetic method that relies on transmitted currents inducing secondary responses in conductive geologic units. A VLF anomaly represents a change in the attitude of the electromagnetic vector overlying conductive materials in the subsurface.

Very Low Frequency surveying reached a peak in the 1980’s and 1990’s, but there are few VLF manufacturers today. GEM has continued to invest in the technology with a numerous refinements. And, now, as explorers realize that the method is a quick and inexpensive means of directing further geophysical surveys or drilling, VLF is experiencing a revival.


VLF sensor attached to Ground Gradiometer System

VLF is used in many applications, including mineral exploration, water exploration and more.

In mineral exploration, VLF data are used to map geologic structure, including the apparent dip of fault zones and shear zones. The data can be interpreted to identify the dip of these structures for reliable drilling. Data are also used to identify conductive ground which might correspond to sulphide concentrations. A third application is to map overburden in preparation to drilling and further sampling.

In groundwater exploration, VLF plays an important role. It can be used to detect conductive bodies of fluid – containing water – in bedrock or in the vicinity of fractures. Another use is for contaminant mapping – contaminants may have higher resistivity than surrounding fluids due to solid inclusions in the fluid.

All of these features have electrical contrasts with surrounding rocks – tending to be more electrically conductive or resistive – and are reasonable targets.

At right is a ground gradiometer  system outfitted with  2 sensors and VLF  sensor (bottom). GEM now has a “Walking VLF”  capability for high  volume surveying with minimal cost.

Depth of Investigation

Depth of investigation is controlled by the electrical “skin depth” of the local geology. It varies from 40-60 meters in highly resistive soils to 4-5 meters in conductive soils. Conductive overburden also suppresses signals from deeper in the profile and can generate significant anomalies that are not of interest. VLF works best where rocks are resistive and overburden is minimal.


VLF surveys may be run on airborne or ground platforms. GEM’s GSM-90AV is an example of an airborne version and the GSM-19V and GSM-19TV are GEM’s ground versions. The airborne version is equipped with two sensors so it can be tuned to two VLF transmitting stations concurrently.

GEM Data and Technologies

GEM’s VLF systems measure a variety of parameters, including in-phase as a percentage of the total field, out-of-phase as a percentage of the total field, horizontal component (x), horizontal component (y), and field strength in pT. This is a powerful combination of parameters designed to maximize the effectiveness of any survey.

And GEM has also made advanced technology innovations in its software and hardware — giving an easy-to-use interface and increased accuracy. For example, we developed a chip-based tilt sensor to replace commonly used fluid-filled sensors which means that the detector can operate much faster.

Airborne VLF

In the air, GEM’s VLF is used with its airborne optically pumped magnetometer and gradiometer systems with 10 Hz sampling. Two stations of data can be acquired simultaneously – maximizing the efficiency of the survey process.

Other advantages of GEM’s airborne VLF include air-core sensors in contrast to a ferrite core used by competitors. The advantage of an air-core is that it does not introduce stray magnetic fields, and as noted, the recent innovation of a solid inclinometer gives the best in noise-free data.

View the Airborne VLF-EM with AIR COIL sensors  Brochure!

Ground VLF

GEM’s VLF ground system is designed to be used by a single operator in a backpack configuration. Weight is nominal – 6.0 kg for a system with Walking VLF. The system is state-of-the-art in that it stores all data onboard in an expansive memory so that many days’ data can be saved at one time.

Because Walking Magnetometer/VLF measurements do not need ground contact, survey operation is very fast with no waiting time. This gives the maximum in productivity possible in a ground instrument.

GEM’s VLF can be towed with an all terrain or other ground vehicles. GEM’s ground solution has been implemented for use with its proven line of Optically Pumped Potassium, Overhauser, and Proton Precession technologies.

When surveying, it is important to remember that the VLF response is a maximum when the target strikes in the direction of the transmitter. Numerous transmitter choices, however, ensure that selection of a transmitter is rarely an issue.

Because of the simple nature of VLF measurements, basic interpretational techniques
suffice. The conductor is located horizontally at the inflection point marking the crossover from positive to negative anomaly or vice-versa. Anomalous areas are identified and a gross characterization attached to the anomaly (e.g., steeply dipping conductor or thickening conductive overburden). Basic modeling is possible for simple geometric structures.

GEM has continued its work with VLF systems and has refined both its airborne and ground VLF systems. A new tilt system is key for both implementations – allowing more precise, and faster readings than ever before. A combination of parameters gives the strongest promise for discovering more with GEM.View Brochure

Request a Quote

For more information on VLF and specifications, please contact GEM. Our World is Magnetics!