Ionospheric specification algorithms for precise GPS-based aircraft navigation


  • I. L. Harris,

  • A. J. Mannucci,

  • B. A. Iijima,

  • U. J. Lindqwister,

  • D. Muna,

  • X. Pi,

  • B. D. Wilson


The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is implementing an aircraft navigation scheme for the United States using the Global Positioning System (GPS) L1 signal (1575.42 MHz). To achieve position accuracies of a few meters, sufficient to allow precision airfield approaches, it will be necessary to broadcast corrections to the direct GPS signal. A significant component of these corrections is the delay in the GPS signal introduced by its propagation through the ionosphere. Ionospheric delay corrections will be derived using a ground network of at least 24 dual-frequency GPS receivers distributed across the continental United States. This network is part of the FAA's wide area augmentation system (WAAS) and will provide real-time total electron content (TEC) measurements. We present a technique for converting these TECs into gridded vertical delay corrections at the GPS L1 frequency, which will be broadcast to users every 5 min via geosynchronous satellite. Users will convert these delays to slant corrections for their own particular lines of sight to GPS satellites. To preserve user safety, estimates of the error in the user delay corrections will also be broadcast. However, the error algorithm must not resort to excessive safety margins as this reduces the expected accuracy, and thus utility, of the navigation system. Here we describe an error algorithm and its dependence on various factors, such as user location with respect to the WAAS ground network and ionospheric conditions.