PRECISE POSITIONING OF UAVS – DEALING WITH CHALLENGING RTK-GPS MEASUREMENT CONDITIONS DURING AUTOMATED UAV FLIGHTS
For some years now, UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) are commonly used for different mobile mapping applications, such as in the fields of surveying, mining or archeology. To improve the efficiency of these applications an automation of the flight as well as the processing of the collected data is currently aimed at. One precondition for an automated mapping with UAVs is that the georeferencing is performed directly with cm-accuracies or better. Usually, a cm-accurate direct positioning of UAVs is based on an onboard multi-sensor system, which consists of an RTK-capable (real-time kinematic) GPS (global positioning system) receiver and additional sensors (e.g. inertial sensors). In this case, the absolute positioning accuracy essentially depends on the local GPS measurement conditions. Especially during mobile mapping applications in urban areas, these conditions can be very challenging, due to a satellite shadowing, non-line-of sight receptions, signal diffraction or multipath effects. In this paper, two straightforward and easy to implement strategies will be described and analyzed, which improve the direct positioning accuracies for UAV-based mapping and surveying applications under challenging GPS measurement conditions. Based on a 3D model of the surrounding buildings and vegetation in the area of interest, a GPS geometry map is determined, which can be integrated in the flight planning process, to avoid GPS challenging environments as far as possible. If these challenging environments cannot be avoided, the GPS positioning solution is improved by using obstruction adaptive elevation masks, to mitigate systematic GPS errors in the RTK-GPS positioning. Simulations and results of field tests demonstrate the profit of both strategies.