An Improved Platform Levelling System for Airborne Gravity Meters.

Friday, 19 December 2014
Nigel Brady, NOAA Denver, DENVER, CO, United States
Recent advances in sensor technology have enabled Lacoste and Romberg type relative gravity meters to improve in accuracy to the point where other non-sensor related sources of error serve to limit the overall accuracy of the system. One of these sources of error is derived from the inability of the platform, in which the sensor is mounted, to keep the sensor perfectly level during survey flight. Off level errors occur when the aircraft is unable to maintain straight and level flight along a survey line. The levelling platform of a typical Lacoste and Romberg type dynamic gravity meter utilizes a complex feedback loop involving both accelerometers and gyroscopes with an output connected to torque motors mounted to the platform to sense an off level situation and correct for it.

The current system is limited by an inability of the platform to distinguish between an acceleration of the platform due to a change in heading, altitude or speed of the aircraft and a true change in the local gravity vertical. Both of these situations cause the platform to tilt in reponse however the aircraft acceleration creates an error in the gravity measurement. These off level errors can be corrected for to a limited degree depending on the algorithm used and the size and duration of the causal acceleration.

High precision GPS now provides accurate real time position information which can be used to determine if an accleration is a real level change or due to an anomalous acceleration. The correct implementation of the GPS position can significantly improve the accuracy of the platform levelling including keeping the platform level during course reversals or drape flying during a survey. This can typically improve the quality of the gravity data before any processing corrections. The enhanced platform also reduces the time taken to stabilize the platform at the beginning of a survey line therefore improving the efficiency of the data collection. This paper discusses the method and results of tests of the new GPS aided platform system developed by Dynamic Gravity Systems