In the last decade, new methods for digital field mapping have been implemented which allow great accuracy in positioning and interpreting different types of data as well as providing the tools to manage them. Traditional geologic mapping involves paper maps, a notebook, and colored pencils. Digital mapping requires only a tablet PC and a GPS receiver. The tablet contains all of the traditional tools as well as enabling data to be managed and analyzed effectively at the same time as being recorded through dedicated software. It also contains a variety of useful software such as Windows Journal which provides a blank sheet on which geologists can make notes and drawings with a digital pen. This allows the same approach as a traditional notebook with improved accuracy and ease of recording specific details. The GPS receiver allows the geologist the ability to check their exact position and capture geometric data with great accuracy.
The project will begin in the laboratory where base cartography will be imported into the tablet. Next, the data to be acquired must be defined and forms for guided data input prepared. Following this laboratory preparation, geological mapping is divided into three parts:
1. Basic configuration
A basic configuration of digital mapping tools is very similar to traditional mapping with the exception of using digital tools instead of a notebook and pencil. The geologist will have all previously imported maps available on the tablet’s screen instead of in paper format and can use zooming and panning features to scale them to any values. Zooming to a 1:1 ratio is perfect for drawing and taking notes with a high degree of accuracy and geologists are able to draw or write notes directly onto the maps.
By using the GPS receiver they can check their position and visualize it on the digital map. This configuration does not require any special computer or GIS software skills or knowledge and offers many advantages including the ability to visualize several maps at once which is helpful in analysis and interpretations. It also allows the geologist to visualize maps at a large scale. Finally, the data collected is already in a digital format saving the geologist time and effort in translating their data after field work is complete.
2. Intermediate configuration
This configuration offers additional tools to improve mapping including several tools which are very helpful during field work. The ability to set different thematic levels and assign them precise types of data can be very helpful in keeping findings organized. Themes may include attitude, outcrops, stratigraphic boundaries, faults, landslides, and more. Geologic objects are represented as points, arcs, and polygons and editing tools can be used to differentiate objects so that field mapping and digitization are done at the same time. Finally, the GPS receiver offers an alternative to hand drawing or using editing drawing tools by allowing the geologist to acquire points, arcs, and polygons according to positioning data.
3. Advanced configuration
With advanced configurations more complex functions are taken into consideration from digital mapping in the field to project customization and data processing. Using a Form Editor a geologist can create custom forms for data collecting suited to any kind of activity. These forms help input data while avoiding making mistakes in the field. Advanced management and analytic tools with a large number of functions offer great flexibility in unpredictable situations enabling them to create perfectly editable and customizable projects depending on their specific needs. This can be a very useful geological exploration technique especially for mineral exploration.