An airborne radio occultation (RO) system has been developed to retrieve atmospheric profiles of refractivity, moisture, and temperature. The long-term objective of such a system is deployment on commercial aircraft to increase the quantity of moisture observations in flight corridors in order to improve weather forecast accuracy. However, there are several factors important to operational feasibility that have an impact on the accuracy of the airborne RO results. We investigate the effects of different types of navigation system noise on the precision of the retrieved atmospheric profiles using recordings from the GNSS Instrument System for Multistatic and Occultation Sensing (GISMOS) test flights, which used an Applanix POS/AV 510 Global Positioning System (GPS)/Inertial Navigation System (INS). The data were processed using a carrier phase differential GPS technique, and then the GPS position and inertial measurement unit data were combined in a loosely coupled integrated inertial navigation solution. This study quantifies the velocity precision as a function of distance from GPS reference network sites, the velocity precision with or without an inertial measurement unit, the impact of the quality of the inertial measurement unit, and the compromise in precision resulting from the use of real-time autonomous GPS positioning. We find that using reference stations with baseline lengths of up to 760 km from the survey area has a negligible impact on the retrieved refractivity precision. We also find that only a small bias (less than 0.5% in refractivity) results from the use of an autonomous GPS solution rather than a post-processed differential solution when used in an integrated GPS/INS system. This greatly expands the potential range of an operational airborne radio occultation system, particularly over the oceans, where observations are sparse.
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