Accuracy assessment of real-time kinematics (RTK) measurements on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) for direct geo-referencing

Desta Ekaso*, F. Nex, N. Kerle

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)
339 Downloads (Pure)


Geospatial information acquired with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) provides valuable decision-making support in many different domains, and technological advances coincide with a demand for ever more sophisticated data products. One consequence is a research and development focus on more accurately referenced images and derivatives, which has long been a weakness especially of low to medium cost UAV systems equipped with relatively inexpensive inertial measurement unit (IMU) and Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) receivers. This research evaluates the positional accuracy of the real-time kinematics (RTK) GNSS on the DJI Matrice 600 Pro, one of the first available and widely used UAVs with potentially surveying-grade performance. Although a very high positional accuracy of the drone itself of 2 to 3 cm is claimed by DJI, the actual accuracy of the drone RTK for positioning the images and for using it for mapping purposes without additional ground control is not known. To begin with, the actual GNSS RTK position of reference center (the physical point on the antenna) on the drone is not indicated, and uncertainty regarding this also exists among the professional user community. In this study the reference center was determined through a set of experiments using the dual frequency static Leica GNSS with RTK capability. The RTK positioning data from the drone were then used for direct georeferencing, and its results were evaluated. Test flights were carried out over a 70 x 70 m area with an altitude of 40 m above the ground, with a ground sampling distance of 1.3 cm. Evaluated against ground control points, the planimetric accuracy of direct georeferencing for the photogrammetric product ranged between 30 and 60 cm. Analysis of direct georeferencing results showed a time delay of up to 0.28 seconds between the drone GNSS RTK and camera image acquisition affecting direct georeferencing results.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-181
Number of pages17
JournalGeo-spatial information science
Issue number2
Early online date23 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2 Apr 2020


  • UAV
  • Direct georeferencing
  • Aerial triangulation
  • Lever arm offset


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