Date of Award

Spring 5-4-2024

Degree Type

Publishable Paper

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Dr. Xiaobing Zhou

Second Advisor

Dr. Curtis Link

Third Advisor

Gary Wyss

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Christopher Gammons


The radiometric signature of thorium, in combination with the hyperspectral signature of carbonate minerals, can be a useful indicator of rare earth mineral occurrences in air-borne geophysical exploration. Recent technological advancements have allowed unmanned aircraft system (UAS)--borne spectral imaging and gamma-ray spectroscopy systems to acquire high-spatial-resolution data. In this study, we attempted to define and map an area of interest for rare earth mineral exploration using UAS-borne spectral and gamma-ray spectroscopy systems. Gamma-ray spectroscopy data were used to define an area of interest. Short-wave infrared imagery was used to detect and map carbonate minerals within the area of interest. Gamma-ray spectroscopy data successfully outlined an area of interest for rare earth element exploration consistent with ground-truth rock samples, geochemical analysis, and previous geological mapping. Hyperspectral image classification using spectral angle mapper (SAM) and spectral information divergence-spectral angle mapper hybrid method (SID-SAM) methods mapped carbonate minerals within the defined area of interest most successfully. Combining high-resolution UAS remote sensing with geophysical methods provides more robust results than a single method alone.