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Chapter: Civil Surveying : GPS Surveying

GPS Surveying

GPS Surveying
Traditional methods of surveying and navigation resort to tedious field and astronomical observation for deriving positional and directional information.





Traditional methods of surveying and navigation resort to tedious field and astronomical observation for deriving positional and directional information. Diverse field conditions, seasonal variation and many unavoidable circumstances always bias the traditional field approach. However, due to rapid advancement in electronic systems, every aspect of human life is affected to a great deal. Field of surveying and navigation is tremendously benefited through electronic devices. Many of the critical situations in surveying/navigation are now easily and precisely solved in short time.


Astronomical observation of celestial bodies was one of the standard methods of obtaining coordinates of a position. This method is prone to visibility and weather condition and demands expert handling. Attempts have been made by USA since early 1960's to use space based artificial satellites. System TRANSIT was widely used for establishing a network of control points over large regions. Establishment of modern geocentric datum and its relation to local datum was successfully achieved through TRANSI T. Rapid improvements in higher frequently transmission and precise clock signals along with advanced stable satellite technology have been instrumental for the development of global positioning system.

The NAVSTAR GPS (Navigation System with Time and Ranging Global Positioning System) is a satellite based radio navigation system providing precise three- dimensional position, course and time information to suitably equipped user.


GPS has been under development in the USA since 1973. The US department of Defence as a worldwide navigation and positioning resource for military as well as civilian use for 24 hours and all weather conditions primarily developed it.


In its final configuration, NAVSTAR GPS consists of 21 satellites (plus 3 active spares) at an altitude of 20200 km above the earth's surface (Fig. 1). These satellites are so arranged in orbits to have atleast four satellites visible above the horizon anywhere on the earth, at any time of the day. GPS Satellites transmit at frequencies L1=1575.42 MHz and L2=1227.6 MHz modulated with two types of code viz. P-code and C/A code and with navigation message. Mainly two types of observable are of interest to the user. In pseudo ranging the distance between the satellite and the GPS receiver plus a small corrective

Fig 4.1 The Global Positioning System (GPS), 21-satellite configuration



term for receiver clock error is observed for positioning whereas in carrier phase techniques, the difference between the phase of the carrier signal transmitted by the satellite and the phase of the receiver oscillator at the epoch is observed to derive the precise information.


The GPS satellites act as reference points from which receivers on the ground detect their position. The fundamental navigation principle is based on the measurement of pseudoranges between the user and four satellites (Fig.)

2). Ground stations precisely  monitor the orbit of every satellite and by measuring the travel time of the signals transmitted from the satellite four distances between receiver  and  satellites will yield accurate position, direction and speed. Though  three-range measurements  are sufficient,  the fourth  observation   is essential   for   solving   clock synchronization error between receiver and satellite. Thus, the term 'pseudoranges' is derived. The secret of GPS measurement is due to the ability of measuring carrier phases to about 1/100 of a cycle equaling to 2 to 3 mm in linear distance. Moreover the high frequency L1 and L2 carrier signal can easily penetrate the ionosphere to reduce its effect. Dual frequency observations are important for large station separation and for eliminating most of the error parameters.

Figure 4.2: Basic principle of positioning with GPS


There has been significant progress in the design and miniaturization of stable clock. GPS satellite orbits are stable because of the high altitudes and no atmosphere drag. However, the impact of the sun and moon on GPS orbit though significant, can be computed completely and effect of solar radiation pressure on the orbit and tropospheric delay of the signal have been now modeled to a great extent from past experience to obtain precise information for various applications.


Comparison of main characteristics of TRANSIT and GPS re veal technological advancement in the field of space based positioning system (Table1).

GPS has been designed to provide navigational accuracy of 1 0 m to 15 m. However, sub meter accuracy in differential mode has been achieved and it has been proved that broad varieties of problems in geodesy and geodynamics can be tackled through GPS.

Versatile use of GPS for a civilian need in following fields have been successfully practiced viz. navigation on land, sea, air, space, high precision kinematics survey on the ground, cadastral surveying, geodetic control network densification, high precision aircraft positioning, photogrammetry without ground control, monitoring deformations, hydrographic surveys, active control survey and many other similar jobs related to navigation and positioning,. The outcome of a typical GPS survey includes geocentric position accurate to 10 m and relative positions between receiver locations to centimeter level or better.

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