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GPS Technologies in PPUs Clarifying some misunderstandings

Photo courtesy of Flinders Ports

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What is a PPU (Portable Pilot Unit)?

Is it the display? (Laptop, Tablet, iPad, etc) Is it the Software? (Basic, Advanced) Is it the sensor equipment? Ship-based (normally via AIS interface) Wired (AIS Cable) Wireless (AISPilot) Single GPS antenna Without gyro assistance (LightPilot) With gyro assistance(ChannelPilot) Semi independent heading/ROT Fully independent heading/ROT

Independent GPS

Dual GPS antenna (HarbourPilot)

Wired and Wireless AIS connectors

Single antenna GPS with and without gyro assistance

LightPilot (no gyro)

ChannelPilot (with gyro assistance)

Dual antenna (fully independent system)


The PPU is the combination of all the above

Only as good as the data from the sensors Only as good as the software being used Only as good as the chart on which its displayed Only as good as the level of training of the user to use it

This presentation will concentrate on the data generation aspects A lot of confusion over accuracy and terminology

How accurate is my PPU Position?

Basic GPS (iPhone/Android/handheld GPS)

Basic GPS with DGPS corrections


High quality GPS


High quality GPS with DGPS corrections


RTK corrections

But - whats the most important factor?

Any GPS will give you a position But knowing the position only tells you where the antenna is It doesnt tell you where the bow or the stern are The most important factor is: HEADING (Proa)

What happens if we dont know heading?

Ship points in wrong direction on screen Position showing with 15m error circle

What happens if we dont know heading?

Position with 2m error

What happens if we dont know heading?

If ship is moving, the heading will follow COG, not true heading

What happens if we dont know heading?

If we add the true heading, with ROT as well, we get a much better image of what is happening

Where does heading come from?

Ships gyro via AIS Pilot Plug
Gyro error Whole-degree rounding

Gyro-assisted PPU
Single-antenna system with gyro assistance Eg ChannelPilot

Fully independent PPU

Dual antenna system Eg HarbourPilot

Antennas 1.6m apart = 0.1 deg error (95%) Error at bow (250m distance) = <0.5m

A little about terminology?

GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System)
GPS GLONASS Beidou (Compass) American System Russian System Chinese System

Dual Frequency

Making Position more accurate

DGPS (Ground-based) SBAS (Space-Based Augmentation Systems)

RTK (Real Time Kinematic)

Do I need GLONASS as well as GPS?

For position accuracy absolutely NO!
Glonass by itself is less accurate than GPS GPS + GLONASS is not possible (clock systems are incompatible) Only advantage is it gives an alternative system when GPS reception is poor

For heading accuracy Yes.

More data for heading computer to use Heading is calculated quicker and more reliably Allows for greater antenna separation (dual antenna systems)

Single antenna systems

Glonass does very little except provide redundancy

Do I need Dual Freq (L1/L2)?

For position accuracy a qualified yes, but not much
Civilian users cannot use the all the data from the L2 freq Addition of L2 data helps to reduce Ionospheric errors

For heading accuracy Yes.

More data for heading computer to use Heading is calculated quicker and more reliably Allows for greater antenna separation in dual antenna systems

Single antenna systems for pilotage

Dual frequency is not so important

Do I need better position accuracy?

Yes but not so much for the absolute positional information itself
How accurately do you measure your antenna offsets? How accurate is the chart? Pilots use their eyes

Velocity data is improved if position is more accuracy

How do I make heading more accurate?

Dont rely on AIS (notoriously poor data) Single antenna PPU
Make sure its gyro integrated (eg ChannelPilot)

Dual antenna systems

By putting the antennas further apart Add GLONASS for more data Add L2 frequency for more data

In summary 1
Dual antenna systems
For Position accuracy
DGPS is fine. RTK adds a little but really only to velocity

For Heading accuracy

Glonass and dual freq allow greater antenna separation hence more accurate

Single antenna systems

Get the best you can Be gyro-integrated

In summary 2
Most important of all..

Dont forget to look out the window This is not a video game!!! Its just an aid no different from any other aid