DemoGRAPE - Demonstrator of GNSS Research and Application for Polar Environment

by Lucilla Alfonsi, Fabio Dovis, Federica La Longa, Olivier Terzo, Claudio Cesaroni, Pierre Cilliers, Emilia Correia, Massimo Crescimbene, Giorgiana De Franceschi, Nicola Linty, Vincenzo Romano, Rodrigo Romero, Pietro Ruiu, Luca Spogli

The objective of DemoGRAPE is the improvement of high precision satellite positioning to develop new scientific and technological applications in Antarctica.

The high concentration of free electrons makes the ionosphere the major natural contributor to the degradation of signals received on ground from GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite Systems: GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, etc). At high latitudes this degradation is even more severe, since the polar ionosphere is often hit by solar energetic particles driven into the atmosphere by the cusps of the geomagnetic field. Thus, the precise positioning based on GNSS can be heavily corrupted, resulting in positioning errors of tens of meters or, even worse, in the positioning blackout due to the loss of satellite lock.

As the global standard models used to assess the ionospheric contribution to the positioning errors fail when applied to the Antarctic ionosphere, DemoGRAPE adopts an empirical approach based on the local characterization of the natural threats affecting the GNSS signal propagation. To do this, DemoGRAPE will undertake ad hoc measurement campaigns at the Antarctic stations of SANAE IV (South Africa) and EACF (Brazil) during the 2015-2016 Expedition. The new and the historical data will be processed by means of original algorithms designed by the project partners.

The project makes use of Cloud computing to share data and results among the scientists, and to run the necessary software, accounting for intellectual property ownership.

High precision positioning applications, such as geodetic prospections, land and glaciers monitoring, airport traffic management, just to mention a few, must be assisted by services capable to mitigate the ionospheric corruption on GNSS signals. DemoGRAPE will release the prototype of a new service based on local data and ad hoc processors, capable to demonstrate a significant improvement of the precise positioning over Antarctica. Thanks to the Cloud technology, the prototype will be accessible to a plethora of different stakeholders, from academic to private, interested in high precision applications.

The project has received funding from PNRA (contract 2013/C3.01) and it is supported by the SCAR Expert Group GRAPE.

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