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Masking and Multipath Analysis for Unmanned

Aerial Vehicles in an Urban Environment


Suraj Bijjahalli, Subramanian Ramasamy and Roberto Sabatini
School of Engineering-Aerospace and Aviation Discipline
RMIT University, Melbourne, VIC 3000
roberto.sabatini@rmit.edu.au
AbstractUnmanned Aircraft System (UAS) navigation in
urban environments using Global Navigation Satellite System
(GNSS) as a primary sensor is limited in terms of accuracy and
integrity due to the presence of antenna masking and signal
multipath effects. In this paper, a GNSS Aircraft-Based Integrity
Augmentation (ABIA) system is presented. This system relies on
detailed modeling of signal propagation and multipath effects to
produce predictive and reactive alerts (cautions and warnings) in
urban environments. The model predictive capability is then used
to augment path-planning functionalities in the UAS Traffic
Management (UTM) context. The models of the presented system
are corroborated by performing simulation case studies in typical
urban canyons, wherein positioning integrity is degraded by
multipath and masking.
Keywords GNSS integrity, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle; Urban
Environment; Masking; Multipath.

I.

INTRODUCTION

The anticipated growth in Unmanned Aerial Systems


(UAS) for beyond line-of-sight usage in densely crowded
environments has prompted the development of a UAS Traffic
Management (UTM) system to improve flight efficiency and
inter-flight coordination while meeting safety requirements in
increasingly crowded airspaces. The Safety of Life (SoL)
application of UTM requires safety protocols that meet the
Required Navigation Performance (RNP), which defines and
bounds the Total System Error (TSE) for different missions.
The components of TSE are illustrated in Figure 1.In order to
meet the RNP, navigation systems are required to comply with
threshold values of accuracy, integrity, continuity and
availability as specified by the ICAO. System integrity is a
measure of confidence in the position estimates delivered by
the navigation system. Integrity augmentation systems monitor
sensor data and issue timely alerts when the sensors data is
faulty and should not be used.

Integrity requirements for manned and unmanned aircraft


navigating by means of the Global Navigation Satellite
System (GNSS) are specified for different applications [1]
and can be described by the following variables:
1. Horizontal Alert Limit (HAL): Radius of a circle in the
local horizontal plane (which is tangent to the ellipsoidal
earth model) with its centre being at the true position,
that describes the region that is required to contain the
computed horizontal position with the required
probability for a given navigation mode.
2. Vertical Alert Limit (VAL) : Half the length of a vertical
segment , with its centre being at the true position, that
describes the region that is required to contain the
computed vertical position with the required probability
for a given navigation mode.
3. Time To Alert (TTA): The maximum allowable time
measured from the onset of a positioning failure to the
annunciation of the alert to the autopilot/mission-planner.
4. Integrity risk: The probability of computing a position
that is out of defined bounds without warning the
autopilot/mission-planner within the TTA.
5. Horizontal Protection Level (HPL): Radius of a circle in
the local horizontal plane (which is tangent to the
ellipsoidal earth model) with its centre being at the true
position, that describes the region that is assured to
contain the computed horizontal position.
6. Vertical Alert Limit (VAL): Half the length of a vertical
segment, with its centre being at the true position, which
describes the region that is assured to contain the
computed vertical position.

Fig. 1. Components of total system error.

Fig. 2: Positioning protection levels and alert limits.

In the event that either of the protection levels exceed the


alert limits, integrity monitoring is said to be unavailable since
the monitoring system cannot assure that the computed
position is within the region defined by the HAL and VAL.
The relationship between HPL/VPL and HAL/VAL is shown
in Figure 2. The allocation of HAL and VAL is closely linked
to the navigation airspace (G-class in this context).
It can be seen that GNSS integrity impacts key UTM
functions such as navigation within geo-fenced regions,
trajectory planning and adjustment, and a failure to monitor
GNSS integrity is a safety and liability risk. GNSS error
sources can be attributed to:
1. Atmospheric errors
2. Ephemeris errors
3. Satellite clock errors
4. Antenna masking
5. Multipath
GNSS integrity monitoring techniques used in civil
aviation cannot be directly adapted to low-altitude UAS owing
to the unique challenges posed by urban environments. In
particular GNSS antenna masking and signal multipath tend to
dominate GNSS errors in urban environments owing to the
presence of a large number of obstacles and reflectors
(buildings).
The link between GNSS error sources and UTM
functionalities is illustrated in Figure 3. GNSS faults affect the
received data from the satellites and skew the computed
position. Antenna masking and multipath dominate the total

system error in urban environments. The lowered confidence


in GNSS data impacts primary UTM functionalities like
trajectory management, safe-separation and geo-fencing. A
clear synergy is therefore present between UTM and Integrity
Augmentation Systems.
Existing GNSS integrity augmentation methods include
Ground-Based Augmentation Systems (GBAS), SatelliteBased Augmentation Systems (SBAS) and Aircraft-Based
Augmentation Systems (ABAS). Of these systems, the first
two are differential techniques, requiring the use of groundbased and satellite-based reference receivers respectively.
Both techniques incur a higher cost in terms of required
infrastructure, require a minimum number of visible satellites
and additionally, are not capable of addressing GNSS faults in
the immediate vicinity of the UAS receiver like multipath.
Therefore ABAS has an advantage for the application at
hand, in that the integrity processing of GNSS data is
performed onboard the UAS itself, and can be aided by
additional sensors. This paper presents an Aircraft-Based
Integrity Augmentation (ABIA) system that relies on detailed
models of GNSS antenna masking and urban multipath
channels to monitor GNSS integrity and issue timely alerts in
order to initiate preventive or corrective measures. The system
operates via separate principles from GNSS, and is therefore
not subject to the same sources of error and interference.
Multipath and masking in urban aerial navigation is analyzed
and modelled to design detection mechanisms and assign
appropriate thresholds for triggering integrity alerts.

Fig. 3. The role of navigation integrity on UTM functionalities(adapted from [2]).

The designed ABIA system was tested in a simulated


urban navigation scenario to corroborate its performance in
proactively detecting GNSS faults and initiating avoidance
measures. The remainder of this paper is arranged as follows:
Section 2 describes the proposed ABIA system, its
architecture and capabilities. Section 3 describes GNSS error
sources and focusses on multipath channel modelling owing to

its dominant effect on positioning in urban environments. The


means by which ABIA detects multipath and raises integrity
alerts is also described. Section 4 briefly describes the
structure of the integrity flag generator and the assigned
thresholds for integrity alerts. Sections 5 and 6 describe the
simulation and its results respectively

Fig. 4.ABIA system architecture for UAS.


II.

ABIA SYSTEM

ABIA makes use of detailed models of aircraft dynamics


and GNSS signal propagation to provide timely visual and/or
aural alerts to the remote operator in the event of GNSS
degradations or losses. A system level overview of the
integrity augmentation system is illustrated in Figure 4.
The Integrity Flag Generator (IFG) module raises the
following alerts in response to a predicted GNSS fault or a
fault that has already occurred (Sabatini et al., 2013a, Sabatini
et al., 2015):

Caution Integrity Flag (CIF): A predictive alert that a GNSS


fault that violates the Required Navigation Performance (RNP)
for the current flight is imminent.
Warning Integrity Flag (WIF): A reactive alert that a fault has
caused GNSS data to fail to meet the RNP.
The alerts are raised to the Mission Management System
(MMS) which then initiates avoidance measures or corrective
action. The upper limit on the maximum allowable time
between a GNSS fault developing and the MMS being made
aware of it is defined as the Time-To-Alert (TTA) [3]. In the
context of the proposed system in this paper, the following
definitions of TTA are applicable [4-6]:

Time-To-Caution (TTC): The minimum time allowed for a


caution flag to be raised to the MMS before the onset of a
GNSS fault resulting in a violation of the RNP.
Time-To-Warning (TTW): The maximum time allowed
between the detection of a GNSS fault and the ABIA system
providing a warning flag to the user.
There are, therefore two functions associated with the
ABIA system, wherein Prediction-Avoidance(PA) is
associated with proactive detection and avoidance of
integrity threats, and Reaction-Correction(RC), which is
associated with corrective measures in response to a GNSS
fault that has already occurred.

: Time required to perform a correction manoeuvre.

To maintain navigation safety, the condition:

must hold true at all times.


The PA and RC time responses are illustrated in Figures
5 and 6.
III.

GNSS ERROR SOURCES

The ABIA system relies on models of signal propagation


to detect faults and raise integrity alerts [4]. From the point
of signal transmission from the satellite, the following GNSS
faults affect the signal: Free-space path loss, atmospheric
errors, antenna obscuration (masking) and multipath.
Additionally, noise is introduced by limitations of the
receiver itself in the form of receiver noise. Excluding
multipath for the moment, the Signal to Noise ratio of the
signal at the receiver is expressed by:

(4)

In order to simplify the analysis and focus on the effect of


multipath on signal strength, nominal values of the terms in
Equation 4 will be adapted, based on measurements
described in [7] as shown in Table I.
TABLE I. SIGNAL TRANSMISSION PARAMETERS AND LOSSES.

Parameter
EIRP(including

Nominal value
26.8 dBW

182.4 dB
2 dB

(1)

-138.5 dBW

and the RC time-response is given by:

where P is the transmitted power (dBW) or the


Equivalent Isotropic Radiated Power(EIRP), G and G are
the satellite antenna and receiver antenna gains respectively
(dBic). L is the free-space loss(dB); L is the atmospheric
loss(dB); N is the receiver noise (dB).

The PA time-response is then given by [4]:

(3)

(2)

where:

: Time required to predict a critical condition.

: Time required to communicate a predicted fault


to the mission-planner.

: Time required to perform an avoidance manoeuvre.

: Time required to detect a GNSS fault.

: Time required to communicate the fault to the


mission-planner

SNR is typically converted to the Carrier to Noise ratio


( ) to obtain a ratio independent of bandwidth given by:

= 10

(5)

where SNR is expressed in the straight ratio form and B is


the bandwidth. Considering a bandwidth of 2.046 MHz, the
parameters in Table 1 result in 54 dBHz.

Fig.5. PA Time response.

Fig. 1. RC Time-response.

This link budget complies with the GPS interface control


document [8] which specifies a minimum signal level
corresponding to 51dBHz. The following section
describes the modelling of GNSS masking and multipath in
urban environments:

multipath and test the performance of the ABIA system in


section 5. Secondly, the multipath detection scheme
implemented in the ABIA system is presented.

Antenna masking due to objects in the navigation


environment (airside area):

Ray tracing and statistical models are used to simulate the


effect of multipath on GNSS signals in this paper. Multipath
for a single reflection from a reflective surface in the vicinity
of the GNSS receiver antenna is modelled using the raytracing and receiver-image method described in [9] and
illustrated in Fig. 7.

GNSS availability and accuracy is directly dependent on


the number of visible satellites. A minimum of four satellites
are required for positioning, and additional satellites enable
increased accuracy. This is often hindered by the presence of
objects that obscure the line of sight between the receiver
antenna and the satellite(s). Antenna masking is modelled in
this paper by building virtual three-dimensional models of
buildings and simulating UAS navigation in the vicinity of
the building models.

Multipath channel modeling:

Signal multipath:
In addition to the signal attenuation due to free-space loss
and atmospheric effects described previously, multipath, or
signal reflection prior to arriving at the receiver antenna,
induces further fading in the signal, which ultimately impacts
signal measurements and tracking. This section is divided
into two parts: First, the multipath channel model used in this
research is described. The model is used to simulate urban

Fig. 7. GNSS signal multipath

Fig. 8. Tapped-Delay Line for discrete multipath channel.

The computed multipath delay is used to initialize a bandlimited discrete multipath channel modelled using a TappedDelay Line (TDL) as shown in Fig. 8 in order to model the
effect on the received signal. The fading channel assumes that
the power delay profile and the Doppler spectrum are
separable, and is therefore modelled as a linear finite-impulse
response (FIR) filter.
The output samples of the signal from the multipath
channel are related to the input samples by:
=
where

envelopes are a function of the early-late correlator


spacing( ) , which is a receiver parameter, and the Multipath
to Direct Ratio (MDR), which is dependent on the multipath
channel and the environment. The theoretical ranging error
envelope is shown in Fig. 9. It is readily apparent that a
smaller correlator spacing
results in a lowered multipath
ranging error envelope, a feature made use of in the Narrow
Correlator receiver.

(6)

is the set of tap gains given by:


=

(7)

is the sampling period of the input signal to the


where
is the path delay of the th echo.
is the
channel.
complex path gain for the th echo.
In the absence of a direct line-of-sight component for a
signal,
is described by a Rayleigh distribution:
(

)=

exp (

(8)

If a direct line-of-sight component exists, the probability


distribution function of
is described by a Rice distribution:
(

)=

( )exp (

Fig. 9. Theoretical ranging error envelope due to multipath.

IV. MULTIPATH DETECTION


The key problem in any multipath detection technique is
that the parameters of the multipath channel (delay, MDR and
phases) cannot be directly computed and must be estimated
based on the received multipath-influenced signal. The delay
of the multipath signal distorts the ideal correlation function of
the code-tracking loop in the receiver as shown in Fig. 10.

(9)

where the Rice-factor is


= 12 . The echoes are
frequency-shifted owing to the relative motion between the
satellite and the UAS, resulting in a range of Doppler shifts,
modelled in this paper by the Gaussian Doppler spectrum. The
gains of a direct LOS signal and a multipath echo are
obtained, along with the band limited channel response. In
addition to weakening the signal, multipath distorts the
correlation function, and thereby the discriminator output of
the receiver.
The shift in the correlation function due to multipath
results in errors in the range-measurement. The ranging error

Fig. 10. Distortion of ideal correlation function by multipath echo.

The deviation of the correlation function slopes from that


of the ideal correlation function (perfect triangle) is used to
develop a pseudorange correction factor in a multipath
detection and mitigation technique known as the Early-Late
Slope (ELS) method and/or Multipath Elimination
Technology (MET) [10].The ELS method is used in this
paper as a means of detecting multipath and is embedded in
the ABIA functionalities.

Fig. 11. ELS method ([10]).

V.

INTEGRITY FLAG GENERATOR

The modules of the IFG and its outputs are shown in Fig.
12. The assigned integrity thresholds for multipath are based
on multipath channel models, the theoretical ranging errors
they produce, and the probability of multipath detection using
the ELP variable. The multipath channel model, in turn, relies
on models of the navigation environment and the satellite
constellation. Table 2 describes the thresholds for triggering
caution and warning flags for all error sources that the flag
generator is able to detect. The thresholds for signal
attenuation are based on the signal strength that a given
receiver can successfully track. The thresholds for antenna
masking are based on the number of visible satellites required
to compute a position. Thresholds for aircraft operations in all
phases of flight is found in [4, 5]. The key contribution of this
research lies in the integrity thresholds assigned for multipathinduced error.

Referring to Fig. 11,


and
are the amplitudes of the
early and late correlators. and
are the slopes of the
correlation function on the early and late sides respectively.
The multipath-induced pseudorange tracking error in units
of chips due to the presence of multipath is then given by:

(10)

The error
contributes to the bias in pseudorange
measurements
at every epoch. Given visible satellites,
the covariance in the positioning errors
can be shown to be
linearly related to the covariance of the pseudorange errors
by [11]:
(

)=(

) (

(11)

where is an 3 matrix of the unit vectors from the receiver


( ) is 33
antenna to the satellites. The resulting matrix
, and its diagonal elements are used to construct accuracy
metrics for the positioning solution. The most commonly used
metric is the distance root mean square (drms) that
characterizes the 95 % horizontal and vertical positioning
errors by:
95%

= 2

95%

= 2

95%

= 2

(12)
+

(13)
(14)

where , , and
are the diagonal elements of
( ).
These estimated accuracy levels are used by the ABIA system
to raise integrity alerts in low altitude navigation in this paper.

Fig. 22. Integrity Flag Generator modules.

The masking thresholds are based on the minimum number


of satellites required for computing receiver position. The
multipath thresholds are based on the estimated 95%
horizontal and vertical accuracy levels computed at each
epoch. The comparison of these levels against the assigned
HAL and VAL is used to trigger integrity alerts.
V. SIMULATION CASE STUDY
A UAV navigation scenario in an urban environment as
shown in Fig. 13 is simulated to assess the performance of the
ABIA system in generating integrity alerts. The trajectory
planning benefit provided by the multipath module of the
ABIA is assessed for two trajectories.

1.

Steady cruise at 85 m AGL

2.

Steady cruise at 125m AGL

Both trajectories were simulated in an urban canyon with


varying flight parameters to assess the impact of multipath on
the predictive capabilities of ABIA. A GPS constellation was
simulated in MATLABTM by using ephemeris data extracted
from a YUMA almanac [12] that can be propagated to give
satellite positions in the Earth-Centred Earth-Fixed (ECEF)
coordinate system. This enables computation and tracking of
line-of-sight vectors between satellites and a given vehicle
receiver.

TABLE II. INTEGRITY ALERT THRESHOLDS.

Type of alert

Caution Flag

Warning Flag

Error
Source

Thresholds

Masking

When number
of visible
satellites drops
to below 5

Multipath

When 2drms
0.90
min(HAL,VAL)

Signal
attenuation

When CN
drops below 53
dB-Hz

Masking

When number
of visible
satellites drops
to below 4

Multipath

When 2drms
0.90
min(HAL,VAL)

Signal
attenuation

When CN
drops below 52
dB-Hz

Fig. 13. Simulated urban navigation scenario.

The measurements of the GNSS receiver mounted on the


vehicle are affected by multipath caused by reflections from
buildings. The multipath introduces error in the signal
measurement and attenuates the signal(s). The multipath fading
phenomena is simulated using the multipath channel model
described in Section 3. The trajectory epochs corresponding to
multipath error envelopes equal to or greater than the assigned
HAL and VAL are determined. The purpose of the integrity
augmentation system is to detect these error sources and raise
alerts to the mission management system in a timely manner.
The modelled environment and the UAV geometry are
imported into the MATLABTM environment as shown in
Fig. 14. The following integrity augmentation modules of the
system architecture are implemented in MATLABTM:

Antenna masking module: This module detects


blockage of the line-of-sight vector by objects in the
environment given the object geometry and locations.
Multipath module: This module provides phase error,
range error and delay due to multipath using the ray
tracing algorithm described in section 3.
The thresholds for raising alerts are based on the models
of the error sources as described in Section 4.

Fig. 14. Simulation of urban aerial navigation in MATLAB.

The satellite and receiver parameters, and nominal values


of free-space and atmospheric losses are as presented in
Table I.
VI.

RESULTS

The results for integrity alerts in response to GNSS


multipath are presented first. Fig. 15 shows the caution and
warning flags raised due to estimated 2 positioning errors
exceeding the HAL and VAL, and Table III shows the epochs
during the trajectory at which ABIA raises masking integrity
alerts (for trajectory 1).

means of timely detection of GNSS error sources so as to


enable early avoidance or correction. The multipath detection
capabilities of the proposed system are based on detailed
models of GNSS propagation and multipath. The positioning
error due to multipath was analysed and accuracy metrics were
developed to analyse ABIA performance through simulation of
two trajectories in an urban canyon. The capability of ABIA in
predicting lowered GNSS integrity for multiple trajectories was
demonstrated, with a focus on how it can be integrated into
UTM path-planning functionalities. Future research will further
explore the impact of flight parameter variation on positioning
accuracy levels and predictive integrity alerts.
Fig. 15. Multipath integrity alerts (trajectory 1).
TABLE III. TIME-STEPS OF MULTIPATH INTEGRITY ALERTS-TRAJECTORY 1.

IX.
[1]
[2]

Multipath Integrity alerts(trajectory-1)


Caution flags

3,8,16~49

Warning Flags

19~30,32~39,41~47

The multipath integrity alerts for trajectory 2 are listed in


Table IV.

[3]

[4]

TABLE IV. TIME-STEPS OF MULTIPATH INTEGRITY ALERTS-TRAJECTORY 2.

Multipath Integrity alerts(trajectory 2)


Caution flags

1~58

Warning Flags

9~11,23~25,27~42,48~51,55~57
VII.

[6]

DISCUSSION

The performance in terms of TTA duration was found to


be comparable with the ABIA system implemented in [5] for
aircraft, where a TTC of at least 2 seconds was achieved.
However, it must be noted that masking and multipath alerts in
[5] were restricted to errors caused by aircraft manoeuvres
and multipath from aircraft fuselage. The dominant multipath
contribution in low altitude urban flights, in contrast, is from
reflective surfaces on buildings. An initial analysis of GNSS
integrity augmentation in the presence of multipath in urban
environments was performed in [13]. This paper extends the
analysis to low altitude urban aerial navigation.It is readily
apparent that trajectory-2 (steady cruise at 125 m AGL) is
comparatively favorable in that there are fewer instances of
the 95% accuracy level exceeding the assigned HAL/VAL
thresholds. An instance of a warning flag being raised without
a preceding caution flag occurs in epoch 41 of trajectory-1.
Such an incident is not observed in trajectory 2 with caution
flags being annunciated ahead of warning flags. The Time to
Alert for trajectory-2 is 9 seconds (prior to a warning flag
being raised), giving the onboard flight path module sufficient
time to initiate avoidance maneuvers.
VIII.

[5]

CONCLUSIONS

An Aircraft-Based Integrity Augmentation system for


GNSS-guided UAS in urban environments was presented as a

[7]
[8]
[9]

[10]

[11]
[12]
[13]

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