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A Perfect Landing with Improved Accuracy and Efficiency

The surveying and mapping of airfields for the UK Ministry of Defence is an ongoing project that requires accurate positioning data across airfields in the UK and abroad.

Maintaining the status of over a dozen airfields demands efficiency on the ground, as well as accessibility to reliable and precise positioning data.

Ensuring Accurate Data at Every Destination

Thales Group is a global technology company focused on making the world safer and more secure for all.

The UK Ministry of Defence engaged with Thales Group to survey its airfields across the UK and abroad, and deliver accurate positioning data for the navigation aids in each airfield. Airfields are large open spaces and are constantly in use. Maintaining up-to-date airfield maps is critical to the maintenance of the runways and keeping safety measures up-to-date. Airfield management is essential for safe and efficient operations within the airspace system.

Many of the airfields are in remote locations with spotty to no cellular service, and the surveying and compliance team uses GIS mapping to maintain the data accuracy and calibration of the equipment. Furthermore, when surveying an airfield, there can be inherent challenges to retrieving accurate data. The airfield antenna that provides vertical guidance to aircraft sometimes obscures the satellites that deliver GNSS data.

It can often take a surveyor approximately 12 minutes to obtain each of the horizontal positioning data points, with GNSS data delivering centimeter-level accuracy. Matt Currie, a flight inspector and support engineer with Thales UK flight inspection service knew there must be a better solution.

A Perfect Landing with Improved Accuracy and Efficiency

In his role, Currie surveys airfields across the UK and abroad. His work includes maintaining and calibrating the equipment as well as surveying and mapping the airfields.

Currie uses the Trimble® VRS Now™ service within the UK to capture the RTK-level horizontal accuracy of 2 cm. He relies on the Trimble R12i GNSS receiver with built-in IMU-based tilt compensation to survey the field. The built-in IMU is especially useful.

“I can now carry one bag with the equipment I need to conduct a survey. Previously I was toting along three different bags,“ Currie said after using the Trimble receiver.

At the airfields outside of the UK and beyond the VRS network footprint, Currie was challenged with retrieving consistent and precise location data. Currie did a trial with Trimble CenterPoint® RTX correction service to assess its performance. 

“The coverage from CenterPoint RTX was impressive. The data renders quickly, I reached points that historically had been difficult to reach and it delivered an accuracy of less than 2 cm."

He continued, "Because it is reliably accurate with a consistently fast convergence time, it saves me 10 to 15 minutes per survey. That adds up to quite a significant savings in time and effort.” Currie no longer faces the challenges of obscured satellites and large antennas when surveying airfields.

Trimble CenterPoint RTX can be used as a primary correction method anywhere in the world, or as a secondary correction tool that will bridge connectivity disruptions if and when required. This gives Currie the confidence and ability to consistently and efficiently capture accurate positioning data regardless of location:

"Having both Trimble VRS Now and CenterPoint RTX corrections in my toolkit eliminates the need to set up a base station and gives me the assurance to capture precise and accurate location data every time."

Better Data in Less Time Takes Off

Currie relies on both Trimble VRS Now and Trimble CenterPoint RTX in surveying airfields in the UK and abroad. Having both of these options, he sees improved efficiency of his workflow, saving Thales Group time and money.