Scalar magnetic surveying using unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) platforms is slowly gaining momentum within geophysical applications. So far, only a handful of studies have dealt with UAV-towed scalar field measurements, while even fewer have considered towed scalar difference measurements (or gradients). In this paper, we demonstrate the possibilities and benefits of deploying precisely positioned noise-minimized UAV-towed scalar transverse horizontal difference (THD) measurements for mineral exploration purposes. UAV-towed gradiometry bird data are presented from the Nautanen area in northern Sweden and compared with ground magnetic surveys. This area is known for its iron oxide copper-gold mineralizations. The UAV survey spans a total area of 2.5 km2. It was covered using an average line spacing of 30 m and a constant flight altitude above ground level of 30 m. High-quality scalar total-field and THD data were collected with a dynamic noise level of the raw scalar data of about ±0.05 nT. Comparison with the ground magnetic data shows a strong correlation between magnetic anomaly lows and highs across the survey areas. A map with new structural information is presented based on subtle magnetic structures identified in discrete derivatives of the total magnetic intensity anomaly and THD data. Such systems may replace high-quality heliborne systems and reduce costs of the geophysical exploration phase. However, mapping with UAV-towed systems is not straightforward. With typical UAV flight speeds of only 10–12 m/s, the wind often disturbs the 3D attitude of the bird during flights. Hence, advanced processing is required to obtain the intended gradients. Similar challenges are less important in surveying, where the survey speed often greatly exceeds the wind speed.

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