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A Comparison of GPS Performance in a Southern Hardwood Forest: Exploring Low-Cost Solutions for Forestry Applications

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The global positioning system (GPS) exhibits much potential for forestry applications, where traditional methods of position determination still dominate. Recent advances in GPS technology may offer improved performance of GPS in forested conditions, and at a considerable cost advantage compared with previous GPS alternatives. We examined the use of several mapping- to recreation-grade GPS receivers across a topographic gradient and the influence of using the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) to their performance under leaf-on and leaf-off conditions. Generally, the mapping-grade receiver with postprocessed differential correction offered the highest position accuracies, which improved root mean squared error (RMSE95) from 3.64 to 5.32 m across leaf conditions, compared with recreation-grade receiver performance, which ranged in RMSE95 from 12.76 to 38.74 m under leaf-on conditions to 8.22 to 36.81 m under leaf-off conditions. Users of this information should keep in mind that RMSE95 equals actual RMSE × 1.7308. These results are consistent with the general thoughts that (a) mapping-grade receivers should provide higher horizontal position accuracy than consumer-grade receivers, (b) better horizontal position accuracy is obtained during leaf-off forest conditions (i.e., winter), (c) differential correction can improve horizontal position accuracy, and (d) WAAS, when available, can improve horizontal position accuracy. Results also indicate that slope position and the number of position fixes acquired may influence the performance of the GPS units.
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Keywords: global positioning systems; mapping-grade GPS receivers; recreation-grade GPS receivers; root mean squared error

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2009-02-01

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  • Each regional journal of applied forestry focuses on research, practice, and techniques targeted to foresters and allied professionals in specific regions of the United States and Canada. The Southern Journal of Applied Forestry covers an area from Virginia and Kentucky south to as far west as Oklahoma and east Texas.
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