Error Ellipse

• After completing the least- square adjustment, the estimated standard deviations in coordinates of an adjusted station can be calculated from covariance matrix elements. • These standard deviations provide error estimate in the reference axes direction. • The graphical representation, they are half the dimension of a standard error rectangle centered at each point. The standard error rectangle has dimensions of 2S x by 2S y . • This is not true representation of the error present at the station

2S x B


2S y


A X x








The bivariate normal distribution surface

The equation representing a family of ellipses, centered at (µ x , µ y ) where k2 is related to the height h of the intersecting plane above the xy plane. Put x=0 and y=0 in the equation shows that the ellipse cuts the translate y axis at ±kσ y (1-ρ2)1/2 and translate x axis at ±kσ x (1-ρ2)1/2 Differentiation the equation to find the gradient (dy/dx) gives the two particular cases of tangents at y= ±kσ y and x= ±kσ x .

The semi axes a and b are given by a2=(1/2)(σ2 x +σ2 y ) + [(1/4)( σ2 x -σ2 y )2 +σ2 xy ]1/2 and b2=(1/2)(σ2 x +σ2 y ) - [(1/4)( σ2 x -σ2 y )2 +σ2 xy ]1/2

The bearing ψ of the semi major axis can be found from geometry of the ellipse and is given by tan2ψ= 2σ xy / ( σ2 y -σ2 x )

when ρ is zero (no correlation between x and y)the axes of the ellipse lie along the x and y axes. The random variable X and Y which are in general correlated can be transformed to uncorrelated random variables by the rotation of x and y axes through the angle ψ to coincide with the axes of the ellipse.

The transformation U = V

cosψ -sinψ sinψ cosψ


If the covariance matrix for the random variable X and Y is Cx = σ2 x σ yx σ xy σ2 y

The covariance matrix C u for the uncorrelated random variable U and V is

Cu =

cosψ -sinψ sinψ cosψ

σ2 x σ xy σ yx σ2 y

cosψ -sinψ

sinψ cosψ

= σ2 x cosψ + σ2 y sinψ -σ xy sin2ψ (1/2)( σ2 x -σ2 y )sin 2ψ + σ xy cos2ψ

(1/2)( σ2 x -σ2 y )sin 2ψ + σ xy cos2ψ σ2 x sin2ψ + σ2 y cos2ψ +σ xy sin2ψ

The two diagonal terms are both equal to σ uv and must be zero so tan 2ψ =2σ xy / (σ2 y - σ2 x ).

σ xy >0

σ xy <0

y U V Sx Sy Standard error ellipse x Sv t

Standard error rectangle

The usual case the position of a station is uncertain in both direction and distance. • The estimated error of the adjusted station therefore involves the errors of two jointly distribution variables (x and y coordinates). • Thus it follows the Bivariate Normal Distribution(BND). • The figure above shows a contour plot of the BND. • To describe the estimated error of a station fully, it is necessary to show the orientation and lengths of the semi axes of the error ellipse.

• The orientation of the ellipse depends upon the t angle which fixes the directions of the auxiliary, orthogonal (u,v) axes along which the elipses axes lie. • The u axis defines the weakest direction in which the station’s adjusted position is known. • It lies in the direction not maximum expected error in the station’s coordinates. • The v axis is orthogonal to u and defines the strongest direction in which the station’s position is known or the direction of minimum error. • For any station, the value of t that orients the ellipse to provide these maximum and minimum values can be determined after the adjustment from the elements of the covariance matrix.

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