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Radar That Gathers Notes From Underground

Developments to Watch


There are several ways to find out what's underground. You can dig holes, but that's a lot of work. You can set off an explosion and study the seismic waves that reflect back up, but that's imprecise--best for very deep jobs such as finding oil. For many purposes, the preferred method for studying the shallow underground is radar. Systems made by Geophysical Survey Systems Inc. in North Salem, N.H., have been used to find storage tanks, to look for dangerous pockets of water or methane near mine shafts, to comb archeological sites, and to search for bodies.

Customers complained that the systems were complex to operate and heavy. So the company is making a semiautomatic version with a control unit weighing under 15 pounds, a third the weight of its predecessor. It's also one-third cheaper, at under $20,000. One drawback: Pulling the antenna along the ground produces only narrow slices of what lies below. There's still no software to combine the slices into 3-D images.EDITED BY PETER COY

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