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Jun 18, 2013, 11:29 PM
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Outdoor positioning today

Outdoor flying got old because the weather was always bad, the positioning was limited to the 1 meter 4Hz of GPS, & it was too expensive. 3 years later, where does outdoor positioning stand? Improvements in GPS have remaned limited to the glacial speed of a government space program, but there have been some improvements.

On the extreme high end receivers, GPS has improved greatly. Trimble got back into the game, after not upgrading its GPS products in years. The gold standard is now the BD960. Unreasonable rocket said that was giving 15cm accuracy when combined with a subscription to Omnistar.

Russia finished the Glonass system while US continued to slowly upgrade some its satellites. The newest satellites have 2 frequencies & more power. The best receivers have the highest sensitivity, support dual frequences, & combine Glonass with GPS for double the satellite coverage.

3 years ago, it was a good day if 10 satellites were in view. Nowadays, 20 satellites would normally be in view for a high end receiver.

GPS satellites have to be replaced every 15 years. Glonass satellites have to be replaced every 10 years. A bad economy can compromise either system.

In the consumer space, the gold standard is now uBlox-7. That does GPS/GNSS fusion at 10Hz, but only single frequency. There's definitely a lag between new technology & community adoption, with uBlox-6 still considered the gold standard among RC pilots.

The RC community seems to depend more on word of mouth & reseller promotion, meaning a new gadget won't ever get used until it gets promoted by an RC store. When uBlox-7 finally becomes popular, it's going to be a new world of outdoor multirotors. It's not clear if uBlox-7 improves the altitude measurement enough to discard the barometer.

Satellite positioning still won't compete with machine vision. Even at 20cm accuracy, it's not good enough for camera positioning. Progress there is still going to be tied into government R&D spending, government's ability to buy satellites, the rate at which government can afford to upgrade.
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