Assessment of long-range kinematic GPS positioning errors by comparison with airborne laser altimetry and satellite altimetry

X.H. Zhang, René Forsberg

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


    Long-range airborne laser altimetry and laser scanning (LIDAR) or airborne gravity surveys in, for example, polar or oceanic areas require airborne kinematic GPS baselines of many hundreds of kilometers in length. In such instances, with the complications of ionospheric biases, it can be a real challenge for traditional differential kinematic GPS software to obtain reasonable solutions. In this paper, we will describe attempts to validate an implementation of the precise point positioning (PPP) technique on an aircraft without the use of a local GPS reference station. We will compare PPP solutions with other conventional GPS solutions, as well as with independent data by comparison of airborne laser data with "ground truth" heights. The comparisons involve two flights: A July 5, 2003, airborne laser flight line across the North Atlantic from Iceland to Scotland, and a May 24, 2004, flight in an area of the Arctic Ocean north of Greenland, near-coincident in time and space with the ICESat satellite laser altimeter. Both of these flights were more than 800 km long. Comparisons between different GPS methods and four different software packages do not suggest a clear preference for any one, with the heights generally showing decimeter-level agreement. For the comparison with the independent ICESat- and LIDAR-derived "ground truth" of ocean or sea-ice heights, the statistics of comparison show a typical fit of around 10 cm RMS in the North Atlantic, and 30 cm in the sea-ice region north of Greenland. Part of the latter 30 cm error is likely due to errors in the airborne LIDAR measurement and calibration, as well as errors in the "ground truth" ocean surfaces due to drifting sea-ice. Nevertheless, the potential of the PPP method for generating 10 cm level kinematic height positioning over long baselines is illustrated.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalJournal of Geodesy
    Issue number3
    Pages (from-to)201-211
    Publication statusPublished - 2007


    • satellite altimetry
    • global positioning system (GPS)
    • ICESat
    • airborne laser altimetry and laser scanning (LIDAR)
    • precise point positioning (PPP)
    • long-range kinematic positioning


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