Potential of cold-atom airborne gravimetry to improve coastal gravity field and quasigeoid modelling

Dinh Toan Vu*, Sylvain Bonvalot, Lucia Seoane, Germinal Gabalda, Dominique Remy, Sean Bruinsma, Yannick Bidel, Alexandre Bresson, Nassim Zahzam, Didier Rouxel, Corinne Salaün, Marie Françoise Lalancette, René Forsberg, Tim Jensen, Olivier Jamet

*Corresponding author for this work

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We investigate using the GIRAFE cold-atom gravimeter during an airborne gravity survey for improving gravity field and quasigeoid modelling. The study is conducted over the Bay of Biscay, France. Geoid/quasigeoid determination is usually a major challenge over such coastal areas due to scarce and inconsistent gravity data. In a first step, the GIRAFE dataset is analysed and compared with available surface gravity data as well as with global altimetry models from UCSD and DTU. The comparisons indicate that the DTU model is better than the UCSD model within around 10 km from the coastline. Furthermore, recent satellite altimeter missions significantly improve the altimetry models in coastal areas. A significant bias (− 4.00 mGal) in shipborne data is also found from this comparison. In a second step, eight quasigeoid solutions are calculated to evaluate the contribution of GIRAFE data. This contribution reaches 3 cm in terms of height anomaly for DTU21 while being much larger for UCSDv31 and shipborne data. Finally, the quasigeoid solutions are validated using GNSS-levelling data. The results indicate that using GIRAFE data improves by approximately 50% the quality of quasigeoid models over land near the coast. The highest accuracy, around 1 cm, is achieved when GIRAFE data are merged with refined gravity data. Importantly, the standard deviation is just 1.2 cm when compared with GNSS-levelling points if using only GIRAFE data over marine areas, which is very close to the 1 cm goal of geoid/quasigeoid model determination in modern geodesy. This study thus confirms the benefits of performing airborne gravity survey using quantum sensors.

Original languageEnglish
Article number28
JournalJournal of Geodesy
Issue number4
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • Absolute airborne gravity
  • GNSS-levelling
  • Quantum gravimeter
  • Quasigeoid
  • Satellite altimetry
  • Shipborne gravity


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