Consumer-Grade Global Positioning System (GPS) Accuracy and Reliability

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Our primary study objective was to test the accuracy and reliability of consumer-grade GPS receivers in a variety of landscape settings. We established three measurement testing courses in open sky, young forest, and closed canopy settings within a conifer-dominated forest in western Oregon and rigorously tested the positional accuracy of six different GPS. All units were produced by established GPS manufacturers. We found that performance varied, in some cases considerably, among units and appeared to be influenced by canopy cover and satellite availability. Among the top GPS performers, we determined that users could expect positional accuracies within approximately 5 m of true position in open sky settings, 7 m in young forest conditions, and 10 m under closed canopies.

Keywords: GPS; environmental management; evaluation; forest; forest management; forest resources; forestry; forestry research; forestry science; geospatial technology; mapping; natural resource management; natural resources

Document Type: Regular Article

Affiliations: 1: Assistant Professor Forest Engineering Department Oregon State University Corvallis OR 97331, Email: 2: Graduate Student Forest Engineering Department Oregon State University Corvallis OR 97331, Email: 3: Lematta Professor of Forest Engineering Forest Engineering Department Oregon State University Corvallis OR 97331, Email:

Publication date: June 1, 2005

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  • The Journal of Forestry is the most widely circulated scholarly forestry journal in the world. In print since 1902, the Journal has received several national awards for excellence. The mission of the Journal of Forestry is to advance the profession of forestry by keeping forest management professionals informed about significant developments and ideas in the many facets of forestry: economics, education and communication, entomology and pathology, fire, forest ecology, geospatial technologies, history, international forestry, measurements, policy, recreation, silviculture, social sciences, soils and hydrology, urban and community forestry, utilization and engineering, and wildlife management. The Journal is published bimonthly: January, March, May, July, September, and November.
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