Group flights of drones with RTK GPS and real-life precision of RTK receiver as main navigation aid


Lately we have been experimenting a lot with drones equipped with RTK GNSS receivers.

In our setup we used North Surveying RTKite receivers together with Pixhawk flight controllers.

This is a short video with fully automatic flight of 2 drones using RTK GPS. Initial distance between drones was 2 meters, vertical separation 2 meters:

We also conducted a lot of flights to test real-life precision of RTK-equipped drones.

Our test scenario was pretty simple – in take-off in automatic mode, horizontal movement of 10 meters, return to home and land.

We have compiled a table of measurements which can be found below.

It is pretty clear that in RTK Lock mode drones have very high precision. The precision can be even better – we didn’t tune PIDs and the wind was quite high, so the drones had a little drift just before touchdown.

With the RTK base station switched off, drones had precision similar to usual GNSS receivers, perhaps a little bit better because RTKite is L1/L2 receiver.

Test

Ublox GPS receiver

RTK Copter 1 w/o base

RTK Copter 1

RTK Copter 2

RTK Copter 3

1

1.20

2.00

0.15

0.3

0.3

2

4.00

0.80

0.15

0.3

0.4

3

3.50

1.50

0.10

0.4

0.05

4

2.40

1.00

0.05

0.3

0.4

5

2.90

0.90

0.15

0.3

0.3

6

0.90

1.50

0.10

0.25

0.3

7

1.50

1.70

0.10

0.4

0.35

8

2.40

1.40

0.60

0.3

0.15

9

2.10

1.70

0.20

0.7

0.2

10

2.00

1.00

0.20

0.2

0.15

11

0.50

1.20

0.00

0.3

0.25

12

1.00

1.40

0.05

0.4

0.4

13

0.50

1.50

0.15

0.4

0.3

14

0.40

1.80

0.20

0.45

0.4

15

1.50

1.30

0.15

0.4

0.2

16

0.70

2.10

0.30

0.5

0.15

17

2.00

1.70

0.15

0.45

0.15

18

1.80

1.70

0.20

0.25

0.1

19

1.30

2.40

0.05

0.35

0.25

20

1.45

1.80

0.30

0.4

0.15

Max deviation

4.00

2.40

0.60

0.70

0.40

Avg deviation

1.70

1.52

0.17

0.37

0.25

A word of caution for everyone eager to use RTK receiver as the main one connected to the autopilot and used for navigation, not only for geotagging – we found that in situations when RTK receivers loose RTK lock, the autopilot can suddenly get very different coordinates. This may cause the autopilot can send the drone in an unpredictable direction. This is especially dangerous when flying at low altitudes.

We are currently working on this issue together with North Surveying support to assure smooth transitions between different RTK receiver modes.

For any inquiries regarding the RTK system, feel free to drop us a PM or e-mail us at [email protected]

More information on our ground station software UgCS can be found at www.ugcs.com

Good luck and safe flights,
UgCS Team

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