Applied Geomatics

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 161–176 | Cite as

Measurement and correlation of displacements on the Severn Suspension Bridge using GPS

  • Gethin Wyn RobertsEmail author
  • Xu Tang
  • Christopher J. Brown
Original Paper


The use of global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) to monitor the deformations and displacements of structures is well established. Traditionally, research has focussed on the movements of individual locations upon such a structure. In this study, survey-grade global positioning system (GPS) receivers were placed at nine locations upon the bridge and on the tops of the four support towers, and GNSS (GPS, GLONASS) receivers at five key locations on the two suspension cables of the Severn Suspension Bridge. Data were gathered at 10 Hz and 20 Hz, positioned relative to reference GNSS receivers located nearby, over a period of 4 days. This resulted in a dataset allowing the daily movements of the bridge due to applied loading to be measured to millimetre precision. This paper describes the layout of the survey, as well as the movements of the various GNSS antenna locations relative to each other in terms of 3D displacements as well as the frequencies of the movements. A correlation function is developed and applied on the kinematic GPS data, illustrating the synchronised and relative movements of these locations. Correlation between the movements of the bridge’s support towers and suspension cables is illustrated, and conclusions about this development with respect to the potential application of the technique as part of a Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) system are drawn.


GPS GNSS Deformation monitoring Suspension bridge Structural Health Monitoring 



The authors are very grateful to the Highways Agency, Severn River Crossing Plc, and Mott MacDonald for supporting and funding this research, and for helping and allowing the extensive field work to be carried out. Very special thanks go to the staff members on the Severn Bridge who were extremely helpful to us, in particular in attaching the GNSS antennas to the structure during some quite cold weather.


  1. Ashkenazi V, Roberts GW (1997) Experimental monitoring the Humber Bridge with GPS. Proceedings Institute of Civil Engineers, Civ. Engineering, 120(4), 177–182. ISSN 0965 089 XGoogle Scholar
  2. Ashkenazi V, Dodson AH, Moore T, Roberts GW (1996) Real time OTF GPS monitoring of the Humber Bridge, Surveying World, 4(4). ISSN 0927-7900, 26–28Google Scholar
  3. Ashkenazi V, Dodson A, Roberts GW, Brown CJ, Evans R (1998) The use of kinematic GPS and GLONASS to monitor the deflection of the humber bridge under high loading. In: The 2nd European Symposium on Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS 98), Toulouse, France, October. VIII-O-06, pp. 1–6Google Scholar
  4. Brown CJ, Karuna R, Ashkenazi V, Roberts GW, Evans R (1999) Monitoring of structures using GPS, Proceedings Institution of Civil Engineers, Structures, 34(1), 97–105. ISSN 0965 092XGoogle Scholar
  5. Buck JR, Daniel MM, Singer AC (2002) Computer explorations in signals and systems using MATLAB, 2nd edn. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle RiverGoogle Scholar
  6. Celebi M, Sanli A (2002) GPS in pioneering dynamic monitoring of long-period structures. Earthquake Spectra EERI 18(1):47–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cunha A, Caetano E (2006) Experimental modal analysis of civil engineering structures. J Sound Vib 6:12–20Google Scholar
  8. Cunha A, Caetano E, Magalhaes F (2007) Output-only dynamic testing of bridges and special structures. Struct Concr 8:67–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Farrar CR, Worden K (2007) An introduction to structural health monitoring. Philosophical Transactions of Royal Society A 365:303–315CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Farrar CR, Duffey TA, Doebling SW, Nix DA (1999) A statistical pattern recognition paradigm for vibration-based structural health monitoring. Presented at the 2nd international workshop on Structural Health Monitoring Stanford, CAGoogle Scholar
  11. Farrar CR, Doebling SW, Nix DA (2001) Vibration-based structural damage identification. Philosophical Transactions of Royal Society of London 359:131–149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Frangopol DM, Strauss A, Kim S (2008) Bridge reliability assessment based on monitoring. Journal of Bridge Engineering ASCE 13(3):258–270. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Guo J, Xu L, Dai L, McDonald M, Wu J, Li Y (2005) Application of the real-time kinematic global positioning system in bridge safety monitoring. J Bridg Eng 10(2):163–168. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hofmann-Wellenhof B, Legat K, Weisle M (2003) Navigation – principles of positioning and guidance. SpringerWien, New York, NY, USA. ISBN 978-3-211-00828-4Google Scholar
  15. Hofmann-Wellenhof B, Lichtenegger H, Wasle E (2008) GNSS Global Navigation Satellite Systems. Springer, New York, NY, USA.ISBN 978-3-211-73012-6Google Scholar
  16. Jiang J, Lu J, Guo J (2002) Study for real-time monitoring of large-span bridge using GPS. Proc. ISSST 2002, “Progress in Safety Science and Technology”, Beijing/New York: Science Press, eds. Huang, P.; Wang, Y. J.; Li, C. C.; Qian, X. M. ISBN 7-03-010787-X/X*72, Vol. 3, 308–312, Tai’anGoogle Scholar
  17. Larocca APC, Schaal RE (2009) Measuring dynamic oscillations of a small span cable-stayed footbridge: case study using L1 GPS receivers. J Surv Eng 135(1):33–37. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Leach M, Hyzak M, Horoschak S (1993) Validation and analysis of results from a bridge motion monitoring experiment. Proceedings of the 49th annual meeting “Future Global Navigation and Guidance”, Cambridge, MA (519–528). Virginia, USA: The Institute of NavigationGoogle Scholar
  19. Leick A (2004) GPS satellite surveying, 3rd edn. John Wiley & Sons, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  20. Liu H (2013) Structure deformation test in extra long-span bridge load test. Proc 2nd Joint International Symposium on Deformation Monitoring (JISDM), NottinghamGoogle Scholar
  21. Lovse JW, Teskey WF, Lachapelle G, Cannon ME (1995) Dynamic deformation monitoring of tall buildings using GPS technology. ASCE Journal of Surveying Engineering 121(1):35–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lynch JP, Loh KJ (2006) A summary review of wireless sensors and sensor networks for structural health monitoring. The Shock and Vibration Digest 38(2):91–128CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Meng X, Roberts GW, Dodson AH, Cosser E, Barnes J, Rizos C (2004) Impact of GPS satellite and pseudolite geometry on structural deformation monitoring: analytical and empirical studies. J Geod 77(12):1432–1394 ISSN: 0949-7714CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Meng X, Roberts GW, Brown CJ, Andrew AS (2007) Using GPS to measure the response of the forth road bridge to wind and temperature loading. Journal of Geospatial Engineering, Published by the Hong Kong Institution of Engineering Surveyors, pp 1–11, December 2007, ISSN 1563-3772Google Scholar
  25. Meo M, Zumpano G, Meng X, Roberts GW, Cosser E, Dodson AH (2004) Identification of Nottingham Wilford Bridge modal parameters using wavelet transforms. In: peer-refereed Proc of SPIE, Smart Structures and Materials 2004: Modeling, Signal Processing, and Control, Ralph C. Smith, Editor, July 2004, Vol 5383: 561–570Google Scholar
  26. Msaewe H, Hancock CM, Psumillious P, Roberts GW, Bonenberg LK (2017) Investigating multi-GNSS performance in the UK and China based on zero-baseline measurement approach. Measurement, Journal of the International Measurement Confederation 102, 186–199. ISSN 0263-2241.
  27. Nickitopoulou A, Protopsalti K, Stiros S (2006) Monitoring dynamic and quasi-static deformations of large flexible engineering structures with GPS: accuracy, limitations and promises. Eng Struct 28(10):1471–1482CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Ogundipe O, Roberts GW, Brown CJ (2014) GPS monitoring of a steel box girder viaduct. Structure and Infrastructure Engineering: Maintenance, Management, Life-Cycle Design and Performance. 10(1) 25–40. ISSN 1573-2479 print/ISSN 1744-8980 online
  29. Psimoulis PA, Stiros SC (2008) Experimental assessment of the accuracy of GPS and RTS for the determination of the parameters of oscillation of major structures. Computer-Aided Civil and Infrastructure Engineering 23(5):389–403CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Psimoulis P, Pytharouli S, Karambalis D, Stiros S (2008) Potential of global positioning system (GPS) to measure frequencies of oscillations of engineering structures. J Sound Vib 318(3):606–623CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Roberts GW (1997) Real time on-the-fly kinematic GPS. PhD thesis, The University of Nottingham.
  32. Roberts GW, Tang X (2017) The use of PSD analysis on BeiDou and GPS 10Hz dynamic data for change detection. Adv Space Res 59(11):2794–2808. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Roberts GW, Meng X, Dodson A, Cosser E (2002) The use of pseudolites to augment GPS data for bridge deflection measurements. Proceedings of the 15th International Technical Meeting of the Satellite Division of the Institute of Navigation, Portland, Oregon, USA, September 2002Google Scholar
  34. Roberts GW, Meng X, Cosser E, Dodson AH (2004) The use of single frequency GPS to measure the deformations and deflections of structures. Civil Engineering Surveyor, GIS/GPS Supplement Autumn 2004, ISSN 0266139XGoogle Scholar
  35. Roberts GW, Meng X, Brown CJ, Dallard P (2006) GPS measurements on the London Millennium Bridge. ICE Proceedings; Bridge Engineering 159(4), pp 153–162Google Scholar
  36. Roberts GW, Brown CJ, Atkins C, Meng X (2008) The use of GNSS to monitor the deflections of suspension bridges. Measuring the Changes, 13th International Symposium on Deformation Measurements and Analysis, Lisbon, Portugal, May 2008Google Scholar
  37. Roberts GW, Brown CJ, Ogundipe O (2010) Monitoring bridges by GNSS, Paper 4452. In Proceedings of XXIV FIG international congress, Sydney, Australia. Retrieved July 1, 2015, from
  38. Roberts GW, Brown CJ, Meng X, Ogundipe O, Atkins C, Colford B (2012a) Deflection and frequency monitoring of the Forth Road Bridge, Scotland, by GPS. ICE Proceedings; Bridge Engineering. 165(2), 105–123. ISSN: 1478-4637, E-ISSN: 1751-7664Google Scholar
  39. Roberts GW, Brown CJ, Ogundipe O (2012b) The use of GNSS to measure the synchronized movements of the Severn Suspension Bridge’s 136m tall support towers and suspension cables. In proceedings of The First International FIG Workshop on Monitoring High Rise and Tall Engineering Structures – Development and Practice, Hong Kong, 22–23 November 2012Google Scholar
  40. Roberts GW, Brown CJ, Tang X, Ogundipe O (2015) Using satellites to monitor Severn Bridge structure, UK. Proceedings Institution of Civil Engineers; Bridge Engineering 168(4), 330–339. DOI: ISSN: 1478-4637
  41. Roberts GW, Brown CJ, Tang X (2017) Correlated GNSS and temperature measurements at 10-minute intervals on the Severn suspension bridge. J Appl Geochem 9(2):115–124. Google Scholar
  42. Saeki M (2008) Development of affordable GPS displacement monitoring system. In Koh, H.M., and Frangopol, D. (Eds.), Proceedings of the fourth international conference on bridge maintenance, safety management, health monitoring and informatics – IABMAS ‘08, Seoul, Korea (p. 400). UK: Taylor & FrancisGoogle Scholar
  43. Saeki M, Hori M (2006) Development of an accurate positioning system using low-cost L1 GPS receivers. Computer-Aided Civil and Infrastructure Engineering 21(4):258–267. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Sohn H, Farrar CR, Hemez FM, Shunk DD, Stinemates DW, Nadler BR, Czarnecki J (2003) A review of structural health monitoring literature: 1996–2001. Los Alamos National Lab Report LA-13976- MS. New Mexico, USA: Los Alamos National LaboratoryGoogle Scholar
  45. Stoica P, Moses R (2005) Spectral analysis of signals. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle RiverGoogle Scholar
  46. Wang R, Meng X, Luo L, Yao L, Huang H (2008) Statistic analysis of a prototype structural health monitoring system for the Nanpu Bridge in Shanghai, P.R. China. In Koh, H.M., and Frangopol, D. (Eds.), Proceedings of the fourth international conference on bridge maintenance, safety management, health monitoring and informatics - IABMAS ‘08, Seoul, Korea (p. 406). UK: Taylor & FrancisGoogle Scholar
  47. Wang D, Meng X, Gao C, Pan S, Chen Q (2017) Multipath extraction and mitigation for bridge deformation monitoring using a single-difference model. Adv Space Res 60(12):2882–2895CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Wong KY, Man KL, Chan WY (2001) Monitoring Hong Kong’s bridges, real time kinematic spans the gap. J GPS World 12(7):10–18Google Scholar
  49. Yang YB, Chang KC (2009) Extraction of bridge frequencies from the dynamic response of a passing vehicle enhanced by the EMD technique. J Sound Vib 322(4):718–739. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Yang YB, Lin CW, Yau JD (2004) Extracting bridge frequencies from the dynamic response of a passing vehicle. J Sound Vib 272(3–5):471–493. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Yue, Q., Wu, L., Liu, H., and Huang, Y. (2013). The application of GPS in dynamic monitoring on longspan bridges during the operating process. Proc 2nd Joint International Symposium on Deformation Monitoring (JISDM), NottinghamGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Società Italiana di Fotogrammetria e Topografia (SIFET) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Natural Sciences and TechnologyUniversity of the Faroe IslandsTórshavnFaroe Islands
  2. 2.The University of Nottingham NingboNingboChina
  3. 3.Brunel University LondonLondonUK

Personalised recommendations