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Summary

Taking advantage of numerical integration solves the direct

and indirect geodetic problems on the ellipsoid. In general

the solutions are composed of a strict solution for the sphere

plus a correction to the ellipsoid determined by numerical in-

tegration. The solutions are demonstrated by three numeri-

cal examples.

Zusammenfassung

Die klassische Berechnung der geodtischen Hauptaufgaben

auf dem Rotationsellipsoid beruht auf der Entwicklung der In-

tegranden der elliptischen Integrale in Taylor-Reihen. In die-

sem Beitrag wird die exakte Lsung fr die Kugel mit Kor-

rekturen fr das Ellipsoid, die durch numerische Integration

bestimmt werden, kombiniert. Als eine weitere Anwendung

kann die Flche eines geodtischen Polygons mit dieser Me-

thode berechnet werden. Die Lsungen werden anhand von

drei numerischen Beispielen veranschaulicht.

Introduction

The direct and indirect geodetic problems on the ellipsoid

have attracted the attention of numerous geodesists in

the past. Although ellipsoidal solutions are of less impor-

tance in the space age, problems related with geodesics

may still be relevant. Examples can be found e. g. in the

application of the Law of the Sea, military surveys and in

the optimisation of aircrafts and ships routes.

The classical solutions of these problems were fre-

quently in the forms of power series of the ellipsoidal

eccentricity. Some of the basic formulas used below are

provided e. g. by Heck (1987). Today it is natural to take

advantage of numerical integration by computers. Klotz

(1991) and Schmidt (1999) presented some pioneer work

along this line, and our solutions to the direct and indirect

problems will also rely on numerical integrations. Sim-

ilarly, the area under the geodesic can be conveniently

computed by numerical integration (Sect. 4).

2 Thedirectproblemontheellipsoid

Let us assume that the ellipsoidal parameters a and b, the

semi-major and -minor axes, are given. From these we

compute the first eccentricity by

2 2

e a b / a = . More

details on the basic formulas used are presented in Heck

(1987), Klotz (1991) and Schmidt (1999).

Problem: Let us assume that the coordinates of latitude

( )

1

and longitude ( )

1

of point P

1

are given. Also given

are the azimuth

1

at P

1

and the geodesic arc length s

to another point P

2

. Determine the coordinates of P

2

(see

Fig. 1).

Solution:

a) Let us first convert some trigonometric functions of the

geodetic latitude to functions of the reduced latitude :

tan k tan = ,

2 2

sin k sin / 1 e sin = and

2 2

cos cos / 1 e sin = (1)

where

2

k 1 e = .

b) Compute Clairauts constant for the geodesic by the

formula

1 1

c cos sin = . (2)

If

1 2

and starting from the following equation for

the given arc length s (Heck 1987 and Schmidt 1999):

2

1

2 2

2 2

1 e cos

s a cos d

cos c

, (3a)

we arrive at the formula

2

1

x x

2

x x

x

s a arcsin ds

1 c

=

=

l

l

=

l

l

, (3b)

where

( )

( )

2

1

x 2

2

2 2 2 2 2

x

1 x dx

ds ae

1 c x 1 1 e e x

. (3c)

New Solutions to the Direct and Indirect

Geodetic Problems on the Ellipsoid

Lars E Sjberg

1

s

2 2 2

P ( , ) ?

1 1 1

P ( , )

North

Fig.:Thedirectproblemontheeelipsoid

Fachbeitrag L. E. Sjberg, New Solutions to the Direct and Indirect Geodetic Problems on the Ellipsoid

2 zfv xxx/2006 131. Jg.

Hence,

2

can be determined by

( )

( )

2 2

2 1

sin 1 c sin s ds / a arcsin x / 1 c

l

=

l

l

, (4)

where ds is preferably determined by numerical integra-

tion. As the upper integration limit depends on

2

, Eq. (4)

should be iterated. As a starting value ds can be set to 0.

[One problem of Eq. (3c) is the singularity of the integral

for

2

x 1 c = .]

If

1 2

= , of course, the above procedure does not hold,

but

1 2

= can be checked by the formula

1

1

2

x

s a 2arcsin ds

1 c

\

=

( )

, (5a)

where

( )

2

1

1 c

2

2

1

2 2 2 2 2

x

(1 x )dx

ds 2ae

1 c x 1 1 e e x

. (5c)

Remark: If

1 2

the iteration of Eqs. (3b) and (3c) may

be very slow or fail, which calls for a special investiga-

tion out of the scope of this article.

c) If

1 2

, the longitude

2

is given by the formula

(e. g. Heck 1987 or Schmidt 1999)

2

1

2

1

2 2

2 1 2 2

1

2 2

i 2

i

1

0

i 1

1 e cos d

c

cos c cos

d

c d

cos cos c

t

arcsin d

t

=

=

l

l

=

l

l

(6a)

where

( )

2 2

1 1

x sin

2

2 2 2 2 2

x sin

dx

d e c

1 c x 1 1 e e x

=

=

=

, (6b)

i i

t tan = and

2

0

t 1 c / c = .

The integral of Eq. (6b) can be determined by numerical

integration between the limits x

1

and x

2

.

If

1 2

0 = , the longitude of the new point is given by

( )

2

1

1 c

2 1

2 2 2

x

1

1

0

dx

2c d '

1 x 1 c x

t

2 arcsin d '

2 t

=

l

l

=

l

l

(7a)

where

( )( )

2

1

1 c

2

2 2 2 2 2

x

dx

d ' 2e c

1 c x 1 1 e e x

. (7b)

As an alternative to the above equations we may take ad-

vantage of the similarities of Eqs. (3a) and (6a) to derive

1

c

s I d

a

= , (8a)

where

( )

( )

( )

2

1

2

1

i 2 x

2

i i

1 2

2 2 2 2

0

x i 1

1 c

2

1 1

1 2

2 2 2 2

0

x

x dx t x

c arcsin carcsin , x x

t

1 x 1 c x 1 c

I

x dx x t

2c 1 c 2 carcsin arcsin , x x .

t

1 x 1 c x 1 c

=

=

'

1 \

1

1 =

1

1

( )

1

11

= !

1

\ 1

1

= = 1

1

( ) 1

11+

(8b)

and

( )

( )

2

1

2

1

x

2

2

1 2

2 2 2 2 2

x

1

1 c

2

2

1 2

2 2 2 2 2

x

x dx

ce if x x

1 c x 1 1 e e x

d

x dx

2ce if x x .

1 c x 1 1 e e x

'

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

=

!

1

1

1

=

1

1

1

1

1+1

(8c)

In the special case that both given points are located on

the equator Eq. (8a) reduces to

( )

( )

2

1 c

2

2

2 2 2 2 2

0

cs x dx

1 c 2ce

a

1 c x 1 1 e e x

=

,

(9)

or, approximately,

2

1 c

2

2

2 2

0

2

2

cs x dx

(1 c) ce

a

1 c x

cs c(1 c )

(1 c) e

a 4

. (10)

This completes the solution of the direct problem on the

ellipsoid.

3 Theindirectproblem

In the indirect problem the coordinates of two points (say

P

1

and P

2

) are given.

Problem: Determine the arc length along the geodesic be-

tween the two points and the azimuths of the geodesic at

the two points.

Fachbeitrag Lars E Sjberg, New Solutions to the Direct and Indirect Geodetic Problems on the Ellipsoid

3 131. Jg. xxx/2006 zfv

Solution:

a) First convert the geodetic latitudes

i

to reduced lati-

tudes

i

.

b) Then determine Clairauts constant for the geodesic

running through the two given points (Sjberg 2005b).

Three cases must be distinguished.

i) In the general case with

1 2

, compute

2 2 2 2

2 1 2 1 2

0 2

t t 2t t cos DL

t

sin DL

= , (11a)

where

i i

t tan = ,

2 1 c

DL d = (11b)

and

( )

2

1

x

2

c

2 2 2 2 2

x

dx

d e c

(1 c x ) 1 1 e e x

=

. (11c)

Eq. (11c), with

i i

x sin = , is conveniently integrated

numerically. Clairauts constant is then given by

2

0

c 1/ 1 t = . (12)

ii) If

1 2

0 = , Clairauts constant is given by the

equation

( )

( )

2 2

1

cos D

c

t cos D

, (13a)

where (with

1 1

x sin = )

( )( )

2

1

1 c

2 2 1

2 2 2 2 2

x

dx

D e c

2

1 c x 1 1 e e x

.

(13b)

iii) If

1 2

0 = = , Clairauts constant is given by

( )

2 2

11

cos DL

c

t cos (DL)

=

, (14a)

where

11 11

t tand = ,

11 max

d < being an arbitrary

but small latitude, and

( )( )

2

1 c

2 2 1 11

2 2 2 2 2 2

0

dx cd

DL e c

2

1 c 1 c x 1 e e x

=

.

(14b)

In all three cases the procedures require iteration to reach

the final determination of c.

c) The arc length follows from Eqs. (3a) and (3b). If

1 2

= , we may take advantage of Eqs. (8a)-(8c) to derive

( )

1

a

s I d

c

= . (15)

In particular, if

1 2

0 = = , the arc length can be ap-

proximated by

( )( )

2

2

a e

s (1 c) 2 c 1 c

c 4

l

l

l

l

. (16)

d) The azimuths at points P

1

and P

2

are given by Clairauts

equation, Eq. (2):

i i

sin c/ cos = . (17)

This completes the solution to the indirect geodetic prob-

lem on the ellipsoid.

4 Areacomputationunderthegeodesic

Following Sjberg (2005a) the area (T) on the ellipsoid

limited by the equator, a geodesic with the Clairaut con-

stant c and the two meridians with longitudes

1

and

2 1

can be written

[ [

2 2

1 1

2 2 2

2 1

T b f ( )d b ( ) b f ( ) sin d

= =

, (18a)

where

2 2

sin 1 1 esin

f ( ) ln

2(1 e sin ) 4e 1 esin

=

. (18b)

In the last equality of Eq. (18a) we have taken advantage

of the following differential property of the geodesic:

sin d d = . (19)

Expressing d in terms of latitude [e. g. Sjberg 2005a,

Eq. (19)], we finally arrive at the solution

2

1

2 2

2 1

f ( ) sin

T b ( ) b ck d

g(x)

, (20a)

where

( ) ( ) ( ) ( )( )

2 2 2 2 2 2

g x x 1 e 1 x 1 c 1 e c 1 x

l l

=

l l

l l

,

(20b)

2

k 1 e = and x cos = .

Fachbeitrag L. E. Sjberg, New Solutions to the Direct and Indirect Geodetic Problems on the Ellipsoid

4 zfv xxx/2006 131. Jg.

Alternatively, Eq. (20a) can be written

( )

1

2

x

2 2 1

2 1

x

f (x) 1

T b b ck dx

g(x)

=

, (21a)

where

2

1 2 2 2

2 2

1 1 1 e 1 x

f (x) ln

2(1 e e x )

4e 1 x 1 e 1 x

=

. (21b)

In the above equations

2

b a 1 e = ,

1

and

2 1

are

the latitudes at the intersections of the meridians and the

geodesic,

i i

x cos = , ( )

i i

arcsin c/ cos = and

2 2

i i i

cos x / 1 e (1 x ) = . (22)

The integral terms of Eqs. (20a) and (21a), of order e

2

,

are suitable for numerical integration. Note that

1

f (x) is

well conditioned for any x in the interval 0 x 1 with

1

f (1) 1 = .

If

1 2

= , Eqs. (20a, b) and (21a, b) are modified to

max

2 2

1

0

f ( ) sin

T b ( 2 ) 2b ck d

g( )

(23)

and

( )

1

max

x

2 2 1

1

cos

f (x) 1

T b 2 2b ck dx

g(x)

, (24)

where

2 2

max

cos kc/ 1 e c = and

1

c sin = . (25)

5 Numericalexamples

We will present three numerical examples on the direct

and indirect problems and area computation on the ellip-

soid with a = 6378 km and e

2

= 0.00694.

Example 5.1:

a) Let P

1

be defined by

1 1

0 = = , s = 1000 km and

1

60 = . Compute P

2

and

2

.

Solution: From Eq. (2) we get Clairauts constant:

1 1

c cos sin 0.866025 = = .

By iterating Eq. (3b) and (4) we obtain

(0)

2

0.078153 = ,

(2) (3)

2 2 2

0.078524 = = = , which yields

2

4 2956 .81 = ' '' .

Then the longitude of P

2

is given by Eqs. (6a) and (6b),

yielding

2

0.136239 7 4821 .45 = = ' '' .

b) Let P

1

and P

2

be defined from a). Compute s and

1

.

Solution: First c is iterated twice by Eqs. (11) and (12)

to 0.866025. This yields

1 1

arcsin(c/ cos ) arcsin0.866025 59 5959 .83 = = =

' '' .

Then the arc length is determined by Eqs. (3a) and (3b) to

s = 999.9999979 km.

Example 5.2:

a) Let

1 1 2

0 = = = ,

2

50 =

. Compute s and

1

.

Solution: First c is determined by Eqs. (14a) and (14b).

As the integrand of Eq. (14b) becomes singular at

the upper integration limit, it was approximated by

2

1 c 0.005 . After 2 iterations c = 0.999403 had sta-

bilized. Then the arc length and the azimuth at P

1

were

computed by Eqs. (16) and (2) to s = 5557.26246 km and

1

1.536261 88116 .62 = =

' '' , respectively.

b) Let P

1

, s and

1

be given according to a). Compute the

coordinates of P

2

.

Solution: First the latitude of P

2

was searched by Eq. (4),

which did not converge. Then, by assuming that also

2

0 = , Eq. (10) yielded

2

50 .00 00 .00 =

' '' . Then, using

Eq. (16), we obtained s = 5557.26247, which value thus

agrees with its given value in a). Thus we have verified

that P

2

is located on the equator, and the direct problem

is solved.

Example 5.3:

Compute the area under the geodesic limited by the me-

ridians through P

1

and P

2

in Example 5.1.

Solution: The azimuths are given by

1 1

arcsin(c/ cos ) 1.04719674 = = and

2 2

arcsin(c/ cos ) 1.05257549 = = .

From

2

b a 1 e = one obtains the approximate area

2

1 2 1

T b ( ) 217283.20 = = km

2

.

Furthermore,

1

0 = and

( )

2

2 2

arctan tan / 1 e 0.0787968 = = , which

inserted into Eqs. (20a) and (20b) yields

( )

( )

2

1

2

f sin

T bck d 2.36

g

= =

km

2

and, finally,

1 2

T T T 217285.56 = = km

2

.

Fachbeitrag Lars E Sjberg, New Solutions to the Direct and Indirect Geodetic Problems on the Ellipsoid

5 131. Jg. xxx/2006 zfv

6 Concludingremarks

We have demonstrated how to solve the direct and in-

direct problems on the ellipsoid by adding the strict so-

lution for the sphere and an ellipsoidal correction deter-

mined by numerical integration. By employing numerical

integration, the routines of which are usually available in

current computer software like MATLAB, the problems

of classical geodesy are easily solved to desired precision.

Remaining problems to be solved are related with the case

that the two points of interest on the geodesic are located

at nearly the same latitude, implying that the proposed

solutions for the direct and indirect problems become nu-

merically unstable.

Acknowledgement

The author is indebted to Dr. Ming Pan for the numeri-

cal computations.

References

Heck, B.: Rechenverfahren und Auswertemodelle der Landesvermes-

sung. Herbert Wichmann Verlag, Karlsruhe, 1987.

Klotz, J.: Eine analytische Lsung kanonischer Gleisungen der Geod-

tischen Linien zur Transformation ellipsoidischen Flchenkoordina-

ten. Deutsche Geodtische Kommission, Mnchen, Reihe C, Nr. 385,

1991.

Schmidt, H.: Lsung der geodtischen Hauptaufgaben auf dem Rota-

tionsellipsoid mittels numerischer Integration. ZfV 124: 121128,

1999

Sjberg, L. E.: Determination of areas on the plane, sphere and ellipsoid.

Survey Review, 2005a (Accepted.)

Sjberg, L. E.: Precise determination of the Clairaut constant in ellipso-

idal geodesy, 2005b (Submitted to Surv. Rev.)

Authorsaddress

Lars E Sjberg

Royal Institute of Technology, Division of Geodesy

SE-100 44 Stockholm, Sweden

Phone: +46 8 790-7330, Fax: + 46 8 790-7343

sjoberg@geomatics.kth.se

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