Surveys in Geophysics

, Volume 36, Issue 4, pp 571–586 | Cite as

A Comparison Between Three IMUs for Strapdown Airborne Gravimetry

  • Diogo Ayres-Sampaio
  • Richard Deurloo
  • Machiel Bos
  • Américo Magalhães
  • Luísa Bastos


Strapdown airborne gravimetry relies on the combination of an inertial measuring unit (IMU) and a global navigation satellite system (GNSS) to measure the Earth’s gravity field. Early results with navigation-grade IMUs showed similar accuracies to those obtained with scalar gravimetric systems in the down component. This paper investigates the accuracy of three IMUs used for strapdown airborne gravimetry under the same flight conditions. The three systems considered were navigation-grade IMUs, iXSea AIRINS and iMAR iNAV-FMS, and a tactical-grade Litton LN-200. The data were collected in 2010 over the Island of Madeira, Portugal, in the scope of GEOid over MADeira campaign. The coordinates and orientation of the aircraft were computed using an extended Kalman filter based on the inertial navigation approach. GNSS position and velocity observations were used to update the filter, and the gravity disturbance was considered to be a stochastic process and was part of the state vector. A new crossover point-based serial tuning was introduced to deal with the uncertainty of choosing the filter’s a priori information. The results show that with the iXSea accuracies of 2.1 and 1.6 mGal can be obtained for 1.7 and 5.0 km of spatial resolution (half-wavelength), respectively. iMAR’s results were significantly affected by a nonlinear drift, which led to lower accuracies of 4.1–5.5 mGal. Remarkably, Litton showed very consistent results and achieved an accuracy of about 4.5 mGal at 5 km of spatial resolution (half-wavelength).


Airborne GNSS Gravimetry IMU Strapdown 



The GEOMAD campaign was funded by the European Facility For Airborne Research (EUFAR). The authors would like to express gratitude to the Service des Avions Français Instrumentés pour la Recherche en Environnement (SAFIRE) for providing iXSea’s data and to the Autonomous Systems Laboratory at Engineering School of Porto Polytechnic (LSA-ISEP) for loaning iMAR. Luís Antunes of Direcção Regional de Informação Geográfica e Ordenamento do Território (DRIGOT) is acknowledged for providing the GPS data from stations on Madeira and Porto Santo. Diogo Ayres-Sampaio was supported by a research grant of the PITVANT project funded by the Portuguese Ministry of Defense. Machiel Bos was funded by national funds through FCT in the scope of the Project UID/GEO/50019/2013 and SFRH/BPD/89923/2012.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Diogo Ayres-Sampaio
    • 1
  • Richard Deurloo
    • 1
  • Machiel Bos
    • 2
  • Américo Magalhães
    • 1
  • Luísa Bastos
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Astronomical Observatory, Faculty of SciencesUniversity of PortoVila Nova de GaiaPortugal
  2. 2.Institute D. LuisUniversity of Beira InteriorCovilhãPortugal
  3. 3.Interdisciplinary Centre of Marine and Environmental Research (CIIMAR/CIMAR)University of PortoPortoPortugal

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