Both the hardware and software available for digital geological mapping (DGM) have advanced considerably in recent years. Mobile computers have become cheaper, lighter, faster and more power efficient. Global Positioning Systems (GPS) have become cheaper, smaller and more accurate, and software specifically designed for geological mapping has become available. These advances have now reached a stage where it is effective to replace traditional paper-based mapping techniques with those employing DGM methodologies. This paper attempts to assess and evaluate two currently available DGM systems for geological outcrop mapping: one based on a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) running ESRI ArcPad, and the second based on a Tablet PC running Map IT software. Evaluation was based on field assessment during mapping of a well-exposed coastal section of deformed Carboniferous and Permian rocks at N. Tynemouth in NE England. Prior to the field assessment, several key criteria were identified as essential attributes of an effective DGM system. These criteria were used as the basis for the assessment and evaluation process. Our findings suggest that the main concerns presented by sceptics opposed to DGM have largely been resolved.
In general, DGM systems using a Tablet PC were found to be most suitable for a wide range of geological data collection tasks, including detailed outcrop mapping. In contrast, systems based on a PDA, due to small screen and limited processing power, were best suited for more basic mapping and simple data collection tasks. In addition, PDA-based systems can be particularly advantageous for mapping projects in remote regions, in situations where there is a limited power supply or where total weight of equipment is an important consideration.
Digital geological mapping;