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Is GNSS the Same as RTK GPS?


Within the world of surveying equipment, there are many different systems at work. Naturally, for a process complex enough to send precision equipment into space, this level of interconnectedness just makes sense. However, understanding these systems and how they interact with each other can be confusing. 

For example, in previous blogs, we have discussed different country’s unique satellite constellation systems. Similarly, we have explored the purpose and use of RTK GPS. However, there is always more to learn about these systems, and today we will dive into what GNSS is, and how it affects real-time kinematic measurements.

How Does GNSS Relate to RTK GPS?


What is a GNSS?

A Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) is essentially another name for a constellation of satellites. For instance, you can look at the Global Positioning System (GPS) as a GNSS. Another good example of a GNSS is Russia’s GLObal NAvigation Satellite System (GLONASS).

Usually, when discussing GNSS, you will hear it used in conjunction with receivers. GNSS receivers are the devices we use to capture, interpret and calculate the data we receive from the satellite systems. Most of these devices will work with multiple GNSS’ to provide an even greater level of accuracy.

What is RTK?

Real-time Kinematic (RTK) GPS is a technique for satellite navigation. There are several methods of determining and interpreting the data we receive from satellites, and which one we use depends on the type of equipment available. RTK GPS relies on the transmission data of the carrier signal wave.

Essentially, the carrier wave from a satellite houses all the information the device collects and transmits. Naturally, there is a little more complexity at work behind the scenes, but this is its essential function. An RTK GPS unit interprets just the phase shift of the carrier wave and does not interpret the data within the wave itself. 

How do they work together?

Let’s review. GNSS is another name for a satellite constellation, and GNSS receivers collect data from one or more satellite constellations. RTK GPS enhances the measurement accuracy of satellite data collected by examining the carrier wave’s phase. So, the essential process is this:

  1. The GNSS receiver collects data from the satellite and rover units
  2. The RTK GPS interprets the carrier wave data and correlates it with the rover stations
  3. The rover stations adjust their relative position based on the calculations of the RTK GPS

Through this method of reciprocal information, the accuracy of the surveying equipment is increased. In conclusion, there are many differences between GNSS and RTK GPS, but they do work together for greater accuracy.

Bench Mark Equipment & Supplies is your team to trust with all your surveying equipment. We have been providing high-quality surveying equipment to land surveyors, engineers, construction, airborne and resource professionals since 2002. This helps establish ourselves as the go-to team in Calgary, Canada, and the USA. Plus, we provide a wide selection of equipment, including global navigation satellite systems, RTK GPS equipment, GNSS receivers, and more. We strive to provide the highest level of customer care and service for everyone. To speak to one of our team today, call us at 403-286-0333 or email us [email protected]

About the Author

Nolan has been working in the surveying field since 2017, starting as a part-time student at Bench-Mark while attending the University of Calgary. He now works in technical support and sales helping customers find the right product for them.

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