Persistence and collaboration, combined with world-leading science, has helped UWA and Rio Tinto develop the VK1 airborne gravity gradiometer – an advanced piece of exploration technology designed to detect otherwise invisible, buried ore bodies.

Operating from an aeroplane, VK1 is a next-generation airborne survey system.

The technology measures subtle changes in the Earth’s gravity field, from which it produces a density map that identifies the presence of ore bodies.

Rio Tinto chief executive Tom Albanese said, “As ore bodies become harder to find, we hope that pioneering new technologies like VK1 will help us uncover the next generation of mineral resources.”

Some 30 years in the making, two VK1 systems have undertaken initial flight trials near Perth, and more comprehensive trials are planned this year.

VK1 components are built within UWA’s Physics Workshop. VK1 is named after UWA Physicist Dr Frank Van Kann, who invented the technology.