future Augmented March 1, 2010 By: GPS World

Coverage Improvement for Dual-Frequency SBAS

After reviewing current performance of WAAS, EGNOS, and MSAS, the authors present expected future performance, including the benefits of GPS L5. They evaluate the impact of the Indian GAGAN and Russian SDCM systems on global coverage and examine southward expansions for the original three SBASs. Finally, a look at the impact of a second constellation of navigation satellites and the performance for a user taking advantage of two core constellations.


The Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) monitors GPS and provides both differential corrections to improve accuracy and associated confidence bounds to assure integrity. The first satellite-based augmentation system (SBAS), it was commissioned for service in 2003. Japan’s MTSAT-based Satellite Augmentation System (MSAS) was commissioned in 2007, and the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS) was declared operational in 2009, with safety-of-life service commissioning expected in mid-2010. Two other SBASs are in the developmental stage: India’s GPS Aided Geo Augmented Navigation (GAGAN) and Russia’s System for Differential Corrections and Monitoring (SDCM) have fielded equipment and plan to become operational in the next few years.

Coming improvements will expand SBAS coverage areas and strengthen their performance. In the near term, these include more monitoring stations and algorithmic enhancements, with incorporation of a second civil signal in a protected aeronautical band and new GNSS constellations in the long term.

An SBAS utilizes a network of precisely surveyed reference receivers, located throughout its coverage region. The information gathered from these reference stations monitors the GNSS satellites and their propagation environment in real time. Availability of SBAS service is a function of two quantities: the arrangement of the pseudorange measurements used to determine the user’s position, referred to as geometry; and the quality of each individual measurement, referred to as the confidence bound. Although very small confidence bounds can make up for poor geometries, and strong geometries can overcome large confidence bounds, both values are generally required to be good to obtain high availability.

Geometry is determined purely by the locations of the ranging satellites relative to the user. Currently the basic geometry is provided by the GPS constellation. Historically it has exceeded commitments, and there are currently 29 healthy satellites in orbit when only 21 are nominally guaranteed. However, as satellites are taken off-line in critical orbital slots, the quality of the geometry can degrade significantly. There could be short duration losses of service daily at some locations. Since the goal is to provide service more than 99.9 percent of the time, these outages can have a dramatic impact. WAAS currently mitigates this concern by adding geostationary satellites with a ranging function virtually identical to the GPS satellites. These satellites are always in view and improve the overall geometry, although they do not eliminate the problem completely.

The confidence bounds relate to the expected error sources on the range measurements. Currently three error sources are corrected via broadcast to the user: satellite clock error, satellite ephemeris error, and delay error due to propagation through the ionosphere. These error sources are described by two confidence bound terms: the user differential range error (UDRE) for the satellite errors, and the grid ionospheric vertical error (GIVE) for the ionospheric errors.

For single-frequency SBAS, this last error source is the most significant. Users may sample the ionosphere anywhere in the service volume, but the SBAS only has measurements from its reference station locations. Thus, there is always the possibility of undetected ionospheric disturbances. This leads to larger confidence bounding terms and lower availability.

The combination of geometry and confidence bounds yields the protection levels (PL). PLs are the real-time confidence bound on the user’s position error. To match aviation requirements these are broken into a vertical protection level (VPL) and a horizontal protection level (HPL). Each SBAS guarantees that the user’s actual position error will be smaller than these values 99.99999 percent of the time. The PLs are calculated in real-time using stored and broadcast information. They must be compared to the maximum allowed value for a desired operation. The upper bounds are called alert limits (AL) and they are fixed numbers whose values depend on the operation.

In this article we are interested in the localizer performance with vertical guidance (LPV)-200 approach with a VAL of 35 meters and HAL of 40 meters. Currently, LPV aviation approaches can only be accomplished with a WAAS GPS receiver. Performance of an LPV approach allows minimums as low as 200 feet above ground level before a missed approach must be executed. As of January 2010, there were 1,930 published WAAS LPVs, with plans to add 300 per year in the United States.

Because GPS and SBAS generally perform better at horizontal positioning than vertical, the requirement that the VPL be below the VAL is nearly always the limiting constraint for these operations.


To determine the global availability and the effect of potential improvements, we used our Matlab Algorithm Availability Simulation Tool (MAAST). This tool uses almanac data to calculate the position of the satellites for each specified epoch. The almanac chosen for this study corresponds to the GPS almanac broadcast on April 8, 2009, when there were 30 healthy satellites. However, PRNs 25 and 32 were removed to simulate a condition with 28 healthy satellites. MAAST also implements the WAAS integrity algorithms to calculate the corresponding UDRE and GIVE values. Finally, it uses these values to implement the airborne algorithms specified in the minimum operational performance standards (MOPS) for SBAS. The MOPS specifies user algorithms for determining the protection levels. For these simulations, the VPL and HPL are calculated about every 5 minutes and every two and a half degrees across the globe.

MAAST does a good job of predicting WAAS behavior. It is less accurate when predicting other systems’ performance. EGNOS has developed its own monitoring receivers and integrity algorithms and has different criteria for assigning a satellite a particular UDRE value and assigning each ionospheric grid point’s (IGP’s) GIVE value. Nevertheless, both systems are designed to meet ICAO requirements for integrity, and their performance should be somewhat similar. In observing EGNOS coverage plots and comparing them to MAAST predictions, we do see differences. However, the size of the coverage region and approximate boundaries are reasonably close and provide an idea of performance if not an exact map.

The MSAS algorithms are based upon the same algorithms used in earlier versions of WAAS. Therefore, MAAST should be slightly more accurate in modeling its performance. GAGAN uses the same prime contractor as WAAS and therefore similar algorithms may be expected. Less is known about the intended SDCM algorithms and therefore the modeling of this system faces the largest uncertainty. Again, the MAAST predictions should be viewed as indicative rather than precise. Individual availability maps will not be completely correct, but relative performance improvements should be properly indicated.

Current Systems Status

Currently WAAS is in its full LPV-200 performance (FLP) phase. It consists of 20 WAAS reference stations (WRS) in the conterminous United States (CONUS), in addition to seven in Alaska, one in Hawaii, one in Puerto Rico, four in Canada, and five in Mexico for a total of 38. The station locations are shown as blue circles in Figure 1. There are three WAAS master stations (WMS) and two geostationary satellites (GEOs). The GEOs are the Intelsat Galaxy XV satellite at 1338 W and the Telesat ANIK F1R satellite at 1078 W.

FIGURE 1. Existing SBAS reference networks, consisting of 38 reference stations for WAAS, 34 for EGNOS, and 8 for MSAS.


This Content Originally Published by a land surveyor to Land Surveyors United Network

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