A GPS/INS System for Positioning and Orientation of Airborne Sensors: Results from flight tests in Portugal

Efficient systems for determining the precise position and orientation of airborne sensors will have a great impact in different remote sensing activities, with consequences in their productivity and therefore substantially increasing their cost effectiveness. In the scope of national and international projects, the authors have developed and tested an airborne system built with multiple GPS receivers and a low cost inertial unit. The methodology is based on the integrated processing of raw inertial measurements and GPS data collected from two receivers on board the aircraft and one, or possibly more, reference stations. The algorithm for processing GPS and IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit) raw data was implemented in an integrated feedback loop. The position determination is based on DGPS with OTF ambiguity fixing, using on-line processed inertial data to validate and increase position reliability, especially during GPS outages and when the aircraft is far away from the nearest GPS reference station. For the attitude angles, the IMU raw data is processed using absolute GPS position/velocity updates for continuous alignment. Also, by processing L1 and L2 carrier phase measurements in differential mode between two GPS antennas on the aircraft (without resorting to ground reference station data), a partial estimate of the aircraft attitude is obtained. This is critical to align the low cost inertial platform in heading either when the aircraft is stopped or in stable flight. The inertial system also provides high rate (DGPS filtered) position and velocity estimates that can be valuable during GPS signal outages and for the robustness of the ambiguity fixing procedures. By using the proposed methodology it was possible to explore the entire potential of a low cost GPS/IMU system. The position and attitude values are obtained from all the measurements through an Extended Kalman Filter. Decimeter accuracy was achieved for the positions, while the estimated accuracy for the aircraft orientation is 0.01º for roll and pitch and 0.05º for heading (maximum values). The basic idea was to develop a low cost system that can supply position and attitude with a level of accuracy and reliability similar to more expensive systems, such us gimbaled and ring laser gyro based inertial systems. The final tests of this GPS/IMU system took place during this summer. The inclusion of a radio link between a reference station and the aircraft enabled the system to operate in real time. It proved to be successful in navigating the aircraft during all flight phases, including runway approach and landing. Furthermore, aerial photographs were taken in order to have an independent evaluation of the system accuracy. Results from the airborne campaigns and the performance of this system are presented. Its potential for different applications is discussed.

Presented at:
"Direct versus Indirect Methods of Sensor Orientation" Meeting, Barcelona, Spain, 25-26 November 1999

 Record created 2006-01-06, last modified 2018-03-17

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