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An Accuracy Assessment of Positions Obtained Using Survey- and Recreational-Grade Global Positioning System Receivers across a Range of Forest Conditions within the Tanana Valley of Interior Alaska

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The accuracy of recreational- and survey-grade global positioning system (GPS) receivers was evaluated across a range of forest conditions in the Tanana Valley of interior Alaska. High-accuracy check points, established using high-order instruments and closed-traverse surveying methods, were then used to evaluate the accuracy of positions acquired in different forest types using a recreational-grade GPS unit and a Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS)-enabled survey-grade unit, over a range of acquisition and postprocessing alternatives, including distance to base station, or baseline length (0‐10, 10‐50, 50‐100, and >100 km), use of Russian GLONASS satellites, and occupation times (5, 10, and 20 minutes). The accuracy of recreational-grade GPS was 3‐7 m across all sites. For survey-grade units, accuracies were influenced by forest type and baseline length, with lower errors observed with more open stands and shorter baseline lengths. The use of GLONASS satellites improved positions by a small but appreciable amount, and longer observation times (20 minutes) resulted in more reliably accurate positions across all sites. In general, these results indicate that if forest inventory plots in interior Alaska and other high-latitude regions of the world are occupied for 20 minutes with survey-grade instruments, positions with submeter error can be consistently obtained across a wide range of conditions.

Keywords: GPS; accuracy; inventory; measurements

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2009

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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 Western Journal of Applied Forestry covers the western United States, including Alaska, and western Canada; WJAF will also consider manuscripts reporting research in northern Mexico that has potential application in the southwestern United States.
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