Precise water level measurements using low-cost GNSS antenna arrays

Purnell, David J.; Gomez, Natalya; Minarik, William; Porter, David; Langston, Gregory

We have developed a ground-based Global Navigation Satellite System Reflectometry (GNSS-R) technique for monitoring water levels with a comparable precision to standard tide gauges (e.g. pressure transducers) but at a fraction of the cost and using commercial products that are straightforward to assemble. As opposed to using geodetic-standard antennas that have been used in previous GNSS-R literature, we use multiple co-located low-cost antennas to retrieve water levels via inverse modelling of signal-to-noise ratio data. The low-cost antennas are advantageous over geodetic-standard antennas not only because they are much less expensive (even when using multiple antennas in the same location) but also because they can be used for GNSS-R analysis over a greater range of satellite elevation angles. We validate our technique using arrays of four antennas at three test sites with variable tidal forcing and co-located operational tide gauges. The root mean square error between the GNSS-R and tide gauge measurements ranges from 0.69–1.16 cm when using all four antennas at each site. We find that using four antennas instead of a single antenna improves the precision by 30 %–50 % and preliminary analysis suggests that four appears to be the optimum number of co-located antennas. In order to obtain precise measurements, we find that it is important for the antennas to track GPS, GLONASS and Galileo satellites over a wide range of azimuth angles (at least 140inline-formula) and elevation angles (at least 30inline-formula). We also provide software for analysing low-cost GNSS data and obtaining GNSS-R water level measurements.

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Purnell, David J. / Gomez, Natalya / Minarik, William / et al: Precise water level measurements using low-cost GNSS antenna arrays. 2021. Copernicus Publications.

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