GPS

Our recent GPS research is described on the Ice Tracker page.

In Glacsweb we have used Topcon and Leica dGPS equipment to continuously monitor glacier flow. Normal GPS is accurate to a few metres and would be too inacurate to measure small movements of the glacier. Differential GPS (dGPS) can be much more accurate (millimetres) but requires specialised hardware and software. We installed several dGPS recorders on the glacier to measure the surface changes over the years.Each recording is processed on our server (together with a “fixed” location recording) to produce a long term record of movement and melting. The NERC equipment pool loan of Leica units allowed us to measure points over a wide area on the glacier as well as place a “fixed” point on the moraine. Read our report here.

Leica dGPS station

Leica dGPS station

We have also experimented with simpler (L1 only) chips (LEA-6) which are much lower cost – at the price of some accuracy (we obtained 9cm accuracy, 17cm vertically, with a 2hr recording run against the Leica reference station on the moraine 100m away).

Newer generations of small lower cost dGPS units mean it is possible to deploy more of them for longer (as some use very little power). We tested if real-time kinematic mode – where fixes are read every second can be used instead of long data recordings.

The L1/L2 system we chose is the Piksi Multi from Swift Navigation. Within a couple of minutes an RTK fix can be achieved with an accuracy of roughly 2cm. It is quite power hungry but we only turn it on when taking a reading.