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RENZ JANFORT J.

GRAGANZA | BSGE V 1

REAL-TIME KINEMATIC (RTK)


The positioning technique we described in Chapter 2 is referred to
as code-based positioning, because the receiver correlates with
and uses the pseudorandom codes transmitted by four or
more satellites to determine the ranges to the satellites. From
these ranges and knowing where the satellites are, the receiver
can establish its position to within a few metres.

WHAT IS RTK (REAL-TIME KINEMATIC)?

RTK stands for Real-Time Kinematic and is a technique that uses


carrier-based ranging and provides ranges (and therefore
positions) that are orders of magnitude more precise than those
available through code-based positioning. RTK techniques are
complicated. The basic concept is to reduce and remove errors
common to a base station and rover pair, as illustrated in Figure
42.

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RTK GPS ACCURACY: WHAT ACCURACY IS RTK?

RTK is used for applications that require higher accuracies, such


as centimetre-level positioning, up to 1 cm + 1 ppm accuracy.

RANGE CALCULATION

At a very basic conceptual level, the range is calculated by


determining the number of carrier cycles between the satellite and
the rover station, then multiplying this number by the
carrier wavelength.

The calculated ranges still include errors from such sources as


satellite clock and ephemerides, and ionospheric and tropospheric
delays. To eliminate these errors and to take advantage of
the precision of carrier-based measurements, RTK performance
requires measurements to be transmitted from the base station to
the rover station.

A complicated process called “ambiguity resolution” is needed to


determine the number of whole cycles. Despite being a complex
process, high precision GNSS receivers can resolve the ambiguities
almost instantaneously. For a brief description of ambiguities,
see the GNSS Measurements–Code and Carrier Phase Precision section
earlier in this chapter. For further information about ambiguity
resolution, see the references at the back of this book.

Rovers determine their position using algorithms that incorporate


ambiguity resolution and differential correction. Like DGNSS,
the position accuracy achievable by the rover depends on, among
other things, its distance from the base station (referred to as
the “baseline”) and the accuracy of the differential
corrections. Corrections are as accurate as the known location of
the base station and the quality of the base station’s satellite
observations. Site selection is important for minimizing
environmental effects such as interference and multipath, as
is the quality of the base station and rover receivers and
antennas. This approach is an overall reduction in the number of
RTK base stations required. Depending on the implementation, data
may be transmitted over cellular radio links or other wireless
medium.

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RTK SURVEYING OVERVIEW


RTK surveying is a relative positioning technique which measures
the position of two GNSS antennas relative to each other in real-
time. One antenna is setup on a static point with fixed
coordinates and is known as the base station. The RTK base station
transmits its raw observations to the rover(s) in real-time and
the rover uses both the rover and base observations to compute its
position relative to the base (see figure 2-1).

After a short initialization time (often less than a minute) the


rover can continuously determine a precise 3D vector relative to
the base station. This type of surveying requires a reliable
communications link between the base and rover as the rover needs
continuous observations from the base.

RTK has proven to be a reliable and efficient means for


determining precise relative baselines. However, this method is
limited to baselines of approximately 10 – 20km due to the effect
that distance related errors (atmosphere and satellite orbits)
have on the ambiguity resolution (initialization) and solution
precision. The precision of RTK decreases as the baseline length
increases. Real-Time Network (RTN) surveying has been developed to
extend this base-to-rover range limitation. The RTN concept is
that a group of reference or base stations collect GNSS
observations and send them in realtime to a central processing
system. The central processor then combines the observations from
all (or a subset) of the reference stations and computes a network
solution. From this network solution the observation errors and
their corrections are computed and broadcast to rovers working
within the bounds of the RTN. There are several different RTN
approaches in use including the virtual reference station (VRS),
master auxiliary concept (MAC), and Flächen Korrektur Parameter
(FKP). For more information on the different RTN approaches the
reader is encouraged to check their manufacturer’s documentation,
or to check some of the references in this document.

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RENZ JANFORT J. GRAGANZA | BSGE V 4

NETWORK RTK

Network RTK is based on the use of several widely spaced permanent


stations. Depending on the implementation, positioning data from the
permanent stations is regularly communicated to a central processing
station. On demand from RTK user terminals, which transmit their
approximate location to the central station, the central station
calculates and transmits correction information or corrected
position to the RTK user terminal. The benefit of this approach is an
overall reduction in the number of RTK base stations required.
Depending on the implementation, data may be transmitted over
cellular radio links or other wireless medium.

RTK TECHNIQUE
From an architectural point of view, RTK consists of a base
station, one or several rover users, and a communication channel
with which the base broadcasts information to the users at real
time.
The technique is based on the following high-level principles:

 In the neighbourhood of a clean-sky location, the main errors in


the GNSS signal processing are constant, and hence they cancel
out when differential processing is used. This includes the
error in the satellite clock bias, the satellite orbital error,
the ionospheric delay and the tropospheric delay. The main
errors left without correction are multipath, interference and
receiver thermal noise. Of the errors listed above, the only one
which is truly constant with respect to the user location is the
satellite clock bias; the rest will show a given dependency with
the location as the rover moves away from the base station,
being the tropospheric error the first to be fully de-correlated
in a few kilometres from the base.
 The noise of carrier measurements is much smaller than the one
of the pseudo-code measurements. The typical error of code
pseudorange measurements is around 1 m, to compare with 5 mm for
carrier phase measurements. However, the processing of carrier
measurements is subject to the so-called carrier phase
ambiguity, an unknown integer number of times the carrier wave
length, that needs to be fixed in order to rebuild full range
measurements from carrier ones.

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 The phase ambiguities can be fixed using differential


measurements between two reference stations. There are different
techniques available to fix them, some based on single frequency
measurements with long convergence times, other taking benefit
of dual frequency observables with shorter convergence. In
general, the techniques either depend on a high precision
knowledge of the ionosphere, or assume that the two stations are
close enough so that the ionospheric differential delay is
negligible when compared with the wave-length of the carriers,
around 20 cm. The latter is the approached followed in RTK,
limiting the service area to 10 or 20 km; the former is used
in WARTK to cover big service areas with base stations separated
around hundreds of kilometres away. The RTK approach needs
continuity in the tracked measurements to avoid re-
initialization of the phase-ambiguity filters; this is a severe
limitation in urban environments due to the big number of
obstructions.
The base station broadcasts its well-known location together with
the code and carrier measurements at frequencies L1 and L2 for all
in-view satellites. With this information, the rover equipment is
able to fix the phase ambiguities and determine its location
relative to the base with high precision. By adding up the
location of the base, the rover is positioned in a global
coordinate framework.
The RTK technique can be used for distances of up to 10 or 20
kilometres yielding accuracies of a few centimetres in the rover
position, to be compared with 1 m that is achieved with code-
based differential GPS. Because of its high precision in
controlled environments, RTK is extensively used in surveying
applications.

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The foundation builds the introduction of real-time kinematic


measurements (RTK) in the 1990s, which enabled the user to perform
precise positioning on centimeter level in real-time. Other than
former post- processing techniques, a base station is set up on a
known point and generates correction parameters from the difference
between the target coordinate and the measured coordinate. These
corrections are sent via a radio link to the rover to apply the
correction to the positioning solution. The user is able to carry
out measurements within a distance of 5-20 km to the base station,
for greater distances the ambiguity resolution is unreliable and a
precise positioning solution is not achievable.

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REAL-TIME KINEMATIC AND DIFFERENTIAL GPS

DGPSSource: GPS for Land Surveyors

RTK and DGPSSource: GPS for Land Surveyors

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RENZ JANFORT J. GRAGANZA | BSGE V 8

Most, not all, GPS surveying relies on the idea of differential


positioning. The mode of a base or reference receiver at a known
location logging data at the same time as a receiver at an unknown
location together provide the fundamental information for the
determination of accurate coordinates. While this basic approach
remains today, the majority of GPS surveying is not done in the
static post-processed mode. Post-processing is most often applied
to control work. Now, the most commonly used methods utilize
receivers on reference stations that provide correction signals to
the end user via a data link sometimes over the Internet, radio
signal, or cell phone and often in real-time.

In this category of GPS surveying work, there is sometimes a


distinction made between code-based and carrier based solutions.
In fact, most systems use a combination of code and carrier
measurements so the distinction is more a matter of emphasis
rather than an absolute difference. Well, that's a bit of
discussion about static surveying, but as you know, a good deal of
GPS these days is done not static. Much work is now done with DGPS
or real-time kinematic, RTK.

Errors in satellite clocks, imperfect orbits, the trip through the


layers of the atmosphere, and many other sources contribute
inaccuracies to GPS signals by the time they reach a receiver.

These errors are variable, so the best to way to correct them is


to monitor them as they happen. A good way to do this is to set up
a GPS receiver on a station whose position is known exactly, a
base station. This base station receiver’s computer can calculate
its position from satellite data, compare that position with its
actual known position, and find the difference. The resulting
error corrections can be communicated from the base to the rover.
It works well, but the errors are constantly changing, so a base
station has to monitor them all the time, at least all the time
the rover receiver or receivers are working. While this is
happening, the rovers move from place to place collecting the
points whose positions you want to know relative to the base
station, which is the real objective after all. Then all you have
to do is get those base station corrections and the rover’s data
together somehow. That combination can be done over a data link in
real-time, or applied later in postprocessing.

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RENZ JANFORT J. GRAGANZA | BSGE V 9

Real-time positioning is built on the foundation of the idea that,


with the important exceptions of multipath and receiver noise, GPS
error sources are correlated. In other words, the closer the rover
is to the base, the more the errors at the ends of the baseline
match. The shorter the baseline, the more the errors are
correlated. The longer the baseline, the less the errors are
correlated.

The base station is at a known point, whether it was on a building


permanently or it's a tripod mounted base station. The fact that
it is in a known position allows the base station to produce
corrections. The constellation is telling the base station that it
is in a slightly different place, so corrections can be created to
sent to the rover at the unknown point. The corrections are
applied in real time.

REFERENCES:
https://www.novatel.com/an-introduction-to-gnss/chapter-5-
resolving-errors/real-time-kinematic-rtk/
https://gssc.esa.int/navipedia/index.php/RTK_Fundamentals
https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Principles-of-RTK-and-
Network-RTK-from-16_fig1_266874829
http://www2.unb.ca/gge/Resources/gpsworld.september98.pdf
https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/sites/www.nrcan.gc.ca/files/earthscie
nces/pdf/Canada-RTK-UserGuide-v1_1-EN.pdf
https://www.e-education.psu.edu/geog862/node/1828

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