Nottingham Geospatial Institute

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Dynamic Test Vehicle (train)



NGI, to enable its research and teaching programmes, and to facilitate external research, offers a wide range of facilities, some unique in the UK, all representative of the most modern technology available today:

 Calibrating a digital camera

Photogrammetric digital camera calibration frame

This target frame enables the geometric characteristics of a camera to be determined, to allow any images captured by the camera to be used for photogrammetric purposes.

The frame contains a large number of targets which are photographed from...

a range of distances and attitudes. From this set of images the geometric characteristics of the camera can be determined, through a so-called bundle adjustment, with added parameters (sometimes called a self-calibration method). Camera calibration is often the initial stage of any photogrammetric processing, and is a fundamental requirement to achieve high quality measurement of the object of interest using images.

This has been applied in research related to:

  • Data capture for flood inundation modelling
  • 3D urban modelling
  • Deformation monitoring of model bridges
  • Coastal zone modelling
  • Indoor and outdoor 3D environmental modelling
 Antenna calibration and receiver testing

Calibration pillar ensemble

This six-pillar test bench allows for the design and implementation of a range of comparative equipment evaluation scenarios, and the absolute calibration of all types and classes of precision location systems.

Example usages have included:
  • Multipath scenarios - design, error detection and quantification
  • Navigation system proofing - using a Leica TS-30 for precise vehicle tracking
 Processing SAR data for deformation monitoring

Punnet SAR interferometric processing suite

This software has been developed by SAR (synthetic aperture radar) processing experts at the Institute, and is for the derivation of land deformation and other parameters, from a stack of satellite SAR data.

Punnet began life as a straightforward implementation of the well-known...

small baseline subset (SBAS) method, for processing stacks of SAR images. More recently, it has been improved to provide land deformation over rural and vegetated areas using the novel ISBAS (Intermittent SBAS) approach. The software is now able to give a much clearer picture of deformation over a wider set of land cover classes than many other methods. It can be used for specific area surveys or for mapping regional deformation.

Satellite SAR data are available worldwide, so the applications of our SAR activities have a global reach. We have surveyed areas as widely as Australia, Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Jamaica and the UK, for applications such as climate change, sustainable agriculture and water management in urban areas. Most of this work has been sponsored by government agencies and research councils, but we have also gained support from the commercial EO (Earth Observation) industry.

 Signal scenario simulation

GNSS testing and simulation

The Spirent GSS8000 multi-GNSS simulator has been designed for use in the most demanding applications, and is capable of simulating ultra-high dynamics with industry leading accuracy.

The simulator provides a wide range of capabilities:
  • Superior alternatives for testing, compared to using actual GPS/GNSS signals in a live sky environment
  • Control and repeatability over the generated signals within a lab environment, far ahead of final system development, reducing project time scales and costs
  • Enables signals to be emulated before they exist in reality
  • Allows complex modelling, including multipath, ionospheric and tropospheric effects

Example usage - the General Lighthouse Authorities (GLA) of the UK and Ireland are responsible for maritime aids to navigation.  The US has recently raised concerns about potential degradation of the GPS service, to levels that may impact accuracy, integrity and availability at sea.  This caused concern at the GLAs, who were able, using the GSS8000 and the expertise at NGI, to model future GPS constellation scenarios, in order to better understand the implications of a potential reduction in GPS level of service.  GLA noted ... "this work was valuable in helping us to understand the situation, and allowed us to develop mitigation strategies in a timely and cost effective way".

 Navigation system testing

Dynamic captive test platform for navigation systems

This unique purpose built test facility comprises a fixed dual-rail trackway carrying an integrated positioning vehicle, capable of speeds of up to 7kph. The track is in a figure of eight, and 120m in length. 

The system was designed specifically for...

dynamic positioning system testing and R & D, carrying as standard, a navigation grade POSRS inertial unit.  It provides a multi-sensor platform capable of sub-centimetre positioning accuracy, for developing and testing integrated navigation and positioning solutions.  There are five surveyed antenna mounts on top, enabling simultaneous testing and analysis of GNSS equipment.

Example usage - the test track facility has been used in the cross-governmental initiative Innovation China UK (ICUK) project, to evaluate the performance of a high accuracy low-cost GPS device for intelligent transportation and location-based services.  This device is capable of providing decimetre level positioning accuracy, using corrections delivered over the internet, at a fraction of the cost of current professional products.  The test-track facility was able to provide a repeatable, dynamic platform, on which to test and quantify the accuracy of the new device.

 Robotic total station

Systems for surveying, mapping, monitoring and scanning

The Institute operates a wide range of current hardware and software packages, for example the Leica TS30 total station, with an angular accuracy of 0.25mm at 100m, GNSS receivers and laser scanners.

Here is a sample of some of our hardware and software:


  • Canon and Nikon digital cameras
  • Javad, Leica, u-blox and Unicore GNSS survey systems and reference stations.  Various system capabilities include, in addition to GPS, reception of Beidou, Galileo, GLONASS and QZSS
  • Leica TS30 robotic total station
  • Trimble S6 robotic total station
  • Faro laser scanner
  • Leica HDS laser scanner
  • Ubisense and Microstrain inertial measurement systems
  • UWB and Locata wireless networks


  • Intergraph ERDAS IMAGINE
  • Leica photogrammetry suite
  • Photometrix products
  • STAR*NET software
 Navigation system testing

Rover test vehicle for navigation systems

This is a dedicated integrated positioning vehicle, capable of centimetre level positioning solutions in a variety of environments, with the facility to provide truth trajectories for testing other navigation sensors.

The vehicle is fitted with navigation equipment and onboard PCs, that can...

provide real-time or post-processed truth trajectories against which to evaluate other navigation sensors.  These other sensors can be integrated into the main positioning solution. Integrated data logging allows other data streams, such as video imagery or laser scan point clouds, to be tagged with precise position and time metadata.

With these capabilities, the vehicle will satisfy a wide range of location-based testing applications, such as road condition monitoring, road user charging schemes, urban modelling, automated speed control, and other applications requiring a reliable and continuous, real-time centimetre-level positioning accuracy.

Example usage - the test vehicle was used as a mobile test lab on an EU project named SISTER (Satcoms in Support of Transport on European Roads). A variety of kinematic tests were carried out in the East Midlands between 2008 and 2010.  Tests included testing the signal reception of the cell phone network and different communication satellites, and assessing their impact on high accuracy positioning on the road.  The van was also driven to Paris to test the performance of a specific satellite, Solaris, signals from which are only available there.

Antennas, left to right: Locata, UWB receiver, UWB transmitter

Wireless positioning

We operate two portable wireless networks, Ultra Wide-band and Locata Technology.  Both can be stand-alone or integrated with other systems, to create a seamless indoor-outdoor positioning capability.

Ultra Wide-band (UWB) is used as a supplementary indoor positioning technology to form...

form ubiquitous positioning capacity with other location sensor systems. It is also used as a viable communication tool to support V2X (wireless vehicular communication) applications in the transport sector.

Locata is an innovative positioning system transmitting GPS-like code and phase signals in the 2.4GHz licence-free ISM band. A Locata network is precisely synchronised at the nanosecond level using TimeLoc technology, and can provide un-differenced centimetre-level positioning accuracy. It is commercially used in the mining and aviation sectors.

At NGI we have developed a closely coupled integration between Locata and GPS. This novel, observation level integration, uses the LAMBDA method for ambiguity fixing, offering:

  • Improved geometry, integrity and reliability for both components
  • On-the-fly initialisation and 3D solution for the Locata component
  • Improved ambiguity resolution and outlier detection for GPS
OSGeo logo

Open Source Geospatial Lab

This was established in 2010, following an MoU with The Open Source Geospatial Foundation, which aims to foster collaborative opportunities in open source GIS, for academia, industry and government.

This initiative helped the University develop an international lead role in...

the area of Open Source Geospatial Science education and research. We also lead UK educational developments through the JISC-funded ELOGeo (E-Learning for the Open Geospatial Community) initiative. It has quickly become the primary platform for education related to open source, open standards, and open data, which is supported by organisations such as the Ordnance Survey of Great Britain.

We run various hands-on workshops covering areas like open data, gvSIG, GeoServer, and QGIS, and plan to expand our training program, with a focus on local authorities and government organisations.  We are also part of an annual Open Source GIS summer School initiative.

We are a key part of the ICA-OSGeo Labs Network, which has grown to over 20 research labs across the world (8 in Europe, 3 in North America, 3 in South America, 4 in Asia, 3 in Africa and 1 in Australia.

Using an anechoic chamber to evaluate RF interference

Anechoic chamber

We are major users of technology based on radio signals, so naturally we are interested in RF interference. To isolate and quantify specific effects we use an anechoic chamber.

In this field we collaborate with...
colleagues at the George Green Institute for Electromagnetics Research. This facility can be used, for example, to evaluate signal interference between a range of emitter sources and GNSS signals on which we rely for timing, location and navigation.

Nottingham Geospatial Institute

Nottingham Geospatial Building
The University of Nottingham
Triumph Road
Nottingham, NG7 2TU

telephone:+44 (0)115 95 13880
fax:+44(0) 115 95 13881
email: Email Us