Airborne electromagnetic (AEM) data processing and inversion has progressed from the early conductivity-depth imaging, to 1D inversion for a layered earth model, and most recently to 2D/3D inversions. The new processes have used methods for searching for solutions, applying constraints, and focusing images, such as Occam’s, laterally constrained, and holistic inversions. For airborne data imaging and 1D inversion, some algorithms are fast, whereas others have control over data misfit and the vertical or lateral smoothness. Beyond 1D algorithms, 2D/3D inversions are based on currently used methods such as isolated conductor models (which are good for highly conductive orebodies in resistive background) and techniques that discretized regions that are used for more complex structures and backgrounds. In the latter case, the computations are slow, so research is focusing on time-efficient computer algorithms for solving the equations such as Gauss-Newton, quasi-Newton, and nonlinear conjugate gradient algorithms. For the electromagnetic (EM) problem, the solution can be obtained in a more practical time frame if material that has minimal impact is ignored. Two approaches can be used to speedup the EM inversion process — the moving footprint and direct solver methods. We hope our work will to some extent help stimulate and focus the research in AEM inversion.

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