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Masking and Multipath Analysis for UAVs in an

Urban Environment

Suraj Bijjahalli, Subramanian Ramasamy and Roberto Sabatini

School of Engineering-Aerospace and Aviation Discipline
RMIT University
Melbourne, VIC 3000


AbstractGNSS based UAS navigation in urban Integrity requirements for manned and unmanned aircraft
environments is limited in terms of accuracy and integrity by the navigating by means of the Global Navigation Satellite
presence of severe signal multipath and antenna masking. An System (GNSS) are specified for different applications [1]
Aircraft-Based Integrity Augmentation (ABIA) system for GNSS and can be described by the following variables:
receivers is presented. The proposed system relies on detailed
models of signal propagation and multipath to predict GNSS 1. Horizontal Alert Limit (HAL): Radius of a circle in the
positioning accuracy in urban environments. This capability is local horizontal plane (which is tangent to the ellipsoidal
used to augment path-planning functionalities in UAS Traffic earth model) with its centre being at the true position,
Management (UTM). The performance of the proposed system is that describes the region that is required to contain the
demonstrated in simulated trajectories in urban canyons,
computed horizontal position with the required
wherein positioning integrity is threatened by multipath and
masking. probability for a given navigation mode.
2. Vertical Alert Limit (VAL) : Half the length of a vertical
Keywords GNSS integrity, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle; urban segment , with its centre being at the true position, that
navigation; Masking; Multipath. describes the region that is required to contain the
computed vertical position with the required probability
I. INTRODUCTION for a given navigation mode.
The anticipated growth in Unmanned Aerial Systems 3. Time To Alert (TTA): The maximum allowable time
(UAS) for beyond line-of-sight usage in densely crowded measured from the onset of a positioning failure to the
environments has prompted the development of a UAS Traffic annunciation of the alert to the autopilot/mission-planner.
Management (UTM) system to improve flight efficiency and 4. Integrity risk: The probability of computing a position
inter-flight coordination while meeting safety requirements in that is out of defined bounds without warning the
increasingly crowded airspaces. The Safety of Life (SoL) autopilot/mission-planner within the TTA.
application of UTM requires safety protocols that meet the 5. Horizontal Protection Level (HPL): Radius of a circle in
Required Navigation Performance (RNP), which defines and the local horizontal plane (which is tangent to the
bounds the Total System Error (TSE) for different missions. ellipsoidal earth model) with its centre being at the true
The components of TSE are illustrated in Figure 1.In order to position, that describes the region that is assured to
meet the RNP, navigation systems are required to comply with contain the computed horizontal position.
threshold values of accuracy, integrity, continuity and 6. Vertical Alert Limit (VAL): Half the length of a vertical
availability as specified by the ICAO. System integrity is a segment, with its centre being at the true position, which
measure of confidence in the position estimates delivered by describes the region that is assured to contain the
the navigation system. Integrity augmentation systems monitor computed vertical position.
sensor data and issue timely alerts when the sensors data is
faulty and should not be used.

Fig. 2: Positioning protection levels and alert limits.

In the event that either of the protection levels exceed the GNSS integrity monitoring techniques used in civil
alert limits, integrity monitoring is said to be unavailable since aviation cannot be directly adapted to low-altitude UAS owing
the monitoring system cannot assure that the computed to the unique challenges posed by urban environments. In
position is within the region defined by the HAL and VAL. particular GNSS antenna masking and signal multipath tend to
The relationship between HPL/VPL and HAL/VAL is shown dominate GNSS errors in urban environments owing to the
in Figure 2. The allocation of HAL and VAL is closely linked presence of a large number of obstacles and reflectors
to the navigation airspace (G-class in this context). (buildings).

It can be seen that GNSS integrity impacts key UTM functions The link between GNSS error sources and UTM
such as navigation within geo-fenced regions, trajectory functionalities is illustrated in Figure 3. GNSS faults affect the
planning and adjustment, and a failure to monitor GNSS received data from the satellites and skew the computed
integrity is a safety and liability risk. GNSS error sources can position. Antenna masking and multipath dominate the total
be attributed to: system error in urban environments. The lowered confidence
1. Atmospheric errors in GNSS data impacts primary UTM functionalities like
2. Ephemeris errors trajectory management, safe-separation and geo-fencing. A
3. Satellite clock errors clear synergy is therefore present between UTM and Integrity
4. Antenna masking Augmentation Systems.
5. Multipath
Existing GNSS integrity augmentation methods include
Ground-Based Augmentation Systems (GBAS), Satellite-
Based Augmentation Systems (SBAS) and Aircraft-Based sensors. This paper presents an Aircraft-Based Integrity
Augmentation Systems (ABAS). Of these systems, the first Augmentation (ABIA) system that relies on detailed models of
two are differential techniques, requiring the use of ground- GNSS antenna masking and urban multipath channels to
based and satellite-based reference receivers respectively. monitor GNSS integrity and issue timely alerts in order to
Both techniques incur a higher cost in terms of required initiate preventive or corrective measures. The system
infrastructure, require a minimum number of visible satellites operates via separate principles from GNSS, and is therefore
and additionally, are not capable of addressing GNSS faults in not subject to the same sources of error and interference.
the immediate vicinity of the UAS receiver like multipath.
Multipath and masking in urban aerial navigation was
Therefore ABAS has an advantage for the application at hand, analyzed and modelled to design detection mechanisms and
in that the integrity processing of GNSS data is performed assign appropriate thresholds for triggering integrity alerts.
onboard the UAS itself, and can be aided by additional

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

The designed ABIA system was tested in a simulated urban dominant effect on positioning in urban environments. The
navigation scenario to corroborate its performance in means by which ABIA detects multipath and raises integrity
proactively detecting GNSS faults and initiating avoidance alerts is also described. Section 4 briefly describes the
measures. The remainder of this paper is arranged as follows: structure of the integrity flag generator and the assigned
Section 2 describes the proposed ABIA system, its architecture thresholds for integrity alerts. Sections 5 and 6 describe the
and capabilities. Section 3 describes GNSS error sources and simulation and its results respectively
focusses on multipath channel modelling owing to its
Fig. 4.ABIA system architecture for UAS.

There are, therefore two functions associated with the

ABIA system, wherein Prediction-Avoidance(PA) is
II. ABIA SYSTEM 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
ABIA makes use of detailed models of aircraft dynamics already occurred.
and GNSS signal propagation to provide timely visual and/or
aural alerts to the remote operator in the event of GNSS The PA time-response is then given by [4]:
degradations or losses. A system level overview of the integrity
augmentation system is illustrated in Figure 4.
T PA = T Predict + T C Report + T Avoid (1)
The Integrity Flag Generator (IFG) module raises the
following alerts in response to a predicted GNSS fault or a fault and the RC time-response is given by:
that has already occurred (Sabatini et al., 2013a, Sabatini et al.,
2015): T RC = T Detect + T W Report + T Correct (2)
Caution Integrity Flag (CIF): A predictive alert that a GNSS where :
fault that violates the Required Navigation Performance (RNP) T Predict : Time required to predict a critical condition.
for the current flight is imminent.
T CReport : Time required to communicate a predicted
Warning Integrity Flag (WIF): A reactive alert that a fault has fault to the mission-planner
caused GNSS data to fail to meet the RNP. T Avoid : Time required to perform an avoidance
T Detect : Time required to detect a GNSS fault
The alerts are raised to the Mission Management System T W Report : Time required to communicate the fault to
(MMS) which then initiates avoidance measures or corrective
the mission-planner
action. The upper limit on the maximum allowable time
between a GNSS fault developing and the MMS being made T Correct : Time required to perform a correction
aware of it is defined as the Time-To-Alert (TTA) [3]. In the manoeuvre.
context of the proposed system in this paper, the following
definitions of TTA are applicable [4-6]: To maintain navigation safety, the condition:
Time-To-Caution (TTC): The minimum time allowed for a T Detect + T WReport TTW (3)
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 must hold true at all times.
between the detection of a GNSS fault and the ABIA system
providing a warning flag to the user. The PA and RC time responses are illustrated in Figures 5
and 6.
The ABIA system relies on models of signal propagation to TABLE 1. SIGNAL TRANSMISSION PARAMETERS AND LOSSES.
detect faults and raise integrity alerts [4]. From the point of
signal transmission from the satellite, the following GNSS Parameter Nominal value
faults affect the signal: Free-space path loss, atmospheric
errors, antenna obscuration (masking) and multipath. EIRP(including Gt
26.8 dBW
Additionally, noise is introduced by limitations of the receiver )
itself in the form of receiver noise. Excluding multipath for the
Ls 182.4 dB
moment, the Signal to Noise ratio of the signal at the receiver
is expressed by: La 2 dB
SNR=Pt +Gt +Gr Ls LaN f (4) Nf -138.5 dBW

where Pt is the transmitted power (dBW) or the SNR is typically converted to the Carrier to Noise ratio (
Equivalent Isotropic Radiated Power(EIRP), Gt and C /N 0 ) to obtain a ratio independent of bandwidth given
Gr are the satellite antenna and receiver antenna gains by:
respectively (dBic). Ls is the free-space loss(dB); La
is the atmospheric loss(dB); Nf is the receiver noise (dB).
C /N 0 =10 log 10 (SNR B) (5)
where SNR is expressed in the straight ratio form and B is the
bandwidth. Considering a bandwidth of 2.046 MHz, the
In order to simplify the analysis and focus on the effect of
multipath on signal strength, nominal values of the terms in parameters in Table 1 result in C /N 0 54 dBHz. This
Equation 4 will be adapted, based on measurements described link
in [7] as shown in Table 1.

Fig.5. PA Time response

Figure 1 : RC Time-response

budget complies with the GPS interface control document [8]

which specifies a minimum signal level corresponding to
C /N 0 51dBHz.
The following section describes the modelling of GNSS multipath and test the performance of the ABIA system in
masking and multipath in urban environments: 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): Multipath channel modeling:

GNSS availability and accuracy is directly dependent on Ray tracing and statistical models are used to simulate the
the number of visible satellites. A minimum of four satellites effect of multipath on GNSS signals in this paper. Multipath
are required for positioning, and additional satellites enable for a single reflection from a reflective surface in the vicinity
increased accuracy. This is often hindered by the presence of of the GNSS receiver antenna is modelled using the ray-
objects that obscure the line of sight between the receiver tracing and receiver-image method described in [9] and
antenna and the satellite(s). Antenna masking is modelled in illustrated in Figure 7.
this paper by building virtual three-dimensional models of
buildings and simulating UAS navigation in the vicinity of the
building models.

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
The computed multipath delay is used to initialize a band- The fading channel assumes that the power delay profile
limited discrete multipath channel modelled using a Tapped- and the Doppler spectrum are separable, and is therefore
Delay Line (TDL) as shown in Fig. 8 in order to model the modelled as a linear finite-impulse response (FIR) filter.
effect on the received signal.

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

The output samples of the signal from the multipath K

channel y i are related to the input samples s i by: gn= ak sinc
( )
n ,N 1 n N 2 (7)

y i= sin g n (6) where Ts is the sampling period of the input signal to
n=N 1 the channel. k is the path delay of the k th echo.
where gn is the set of tap gains given by: ak is the complex path gain for the k th
In the absence of a direct line-of-sight component for a The gains of a direct LOS signal and a multipath echo are
signal, ak is described by a Rayleigh distribution: shown in Fig. 9, along with the bandlimited channel
response.In addition to weakening the signal, multipath
2 distorts the correlation function, and thereby the
ak a k
pdf Rayl ( ak ) = exp ( ) (8) discriminator output of the receiver.
2 2
2 The shift in the correlation function due to multipath
If a direct line-of-sight component exists, the probability results in errors in the range-measurement. The ranging error
envelopes are a function of the early-late correlator spacing
distribution function of ak is described by a Rice
(d ) , which is a receiver parameter, and the Multipath to
Direct Ratio (MDR) , which is dependent on the multipath
2 channel and the environment. The theoretical ranging error
ak ak a k +1 envelope is shown in Figure 10. It is readily apparent that a
pdf Rice ( a k )= I (
2 0 2
)exp ( 2
2 smaller correlator spacing d results in a lowered
(9) multipath ranging error envelope, a feature made use of in
the Narrow Correlator receiver.
where the Rice-factor is c=1/2 2 . 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.

Fig.9. Gains of LOS signal (red) and multipath component (blue), and channel impulse response.
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. 11.

Fig. 10. Theoretical ranging error envelope due to multipath.


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
where H is an n 3 matrix of the unit vectors
from the receiver antenna to the satellites. The resulting
matrix cov ( dx ) is 3 3 , 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 horizontal accuracy =2 drms=2 2x + 2y

95 vertical accuracy=2 z

Fig. 11. Distortion of ideal correlation function by multipath echo. where x , y , and z are the diagonal elements
The deviation of the correlation function slopes from that of cov (dx ) . These estimated accuracy levels are used
of the ideal correlation function (perfect triangle) is used to by the ABIA system to raise integrity alerts in low altitude
develop a pseudorange correction factor in a multipath navigation in this paper.
detection and mitigation technique known as the Early-Late
Slope (ELS) method and/or Multipath Elimination V. INTEGRITY FLAG GENERATOR
Technology (MET) [10].The ELS method is used in this The modules of the IFG and its outputs are shown in
paper as a means of detecting multipath and is embedded in Figure 13. The assigned integrity thresholds for multipath are
the ABIA functionalities. 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
Fig. 12: ELS method ([10]). thresholds assigned for multipath-induced error.

Referring to Fig. 12, y1 and y2 are the

amplitudes of the early and late correlators. a1 and
a2 are the slopes of the correlation function on the early
and late sides respectively. The multipath-induced
pseudorange tracking error T in units of chips due to the
presence of multipath is then given by:

[ ( y 1 y 2 ) +d /2(a 1+ a2) ]
(a1 a2 )
The error T contributes to the bias in pseudorange
measurements d at every epoch. Given n visible
satellites, the covariance in the positioning errors dx can
be shown to be linearly related to the covariance of the
pseudorange errors d by [11]:
cov ( dx )=( H T H ) H T cov ( d ) H (H T H )1
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 MATLAB TM 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

Fig. 23. Integrity Flag Generator modules.

The masking thresholds are based on the minimum

number of satellites required for computing receiver position.
Fig. 14. Simulated urban navigation scenario.
The multipath thresholds are based on the estimated 95%
horizontal and vertical accuracy levels computed at each The measurements of the GNSS receiver mounted
epoch. The comparison of these levels against the assigned on the vehicle are affected by multipath caused by
HAL and VAL is used to trigger integrity alerts. reflections from buildings. The multipath introduces
error in the signal measurement and attenuates the
signal(s). The multipath fading phenomena is simulated
A UAV navigation scenario in an urban using the multipath channel model described in Section
environment as shown in Figure 14 is simulated to 3. The trajectory epochs corresponding to multipath
assess the performance of the ABIA system in error envelopes equal to or greater than the assigned
generating integrity alerts. The trajectory planning HAL and VAL are determined. The purpose of the
benefit provided by the multipath module of the ABIA integrity augmentation system is to detect these error
is assessed for two trajectories. sources and raise alerts to the mission management
system in a timely manner.

Type of alert Error Source Thresholds

Caution Flag Masking When number of visible satellites drops to below 5
Multipath When 2drms 0.90 min(HAL,VAL)
Signal attenuation When C / N 0 drops below 53 dB-Hz
Warning Flag Masking When number of visible satellites drops to below 4
Multipath When 2drms 0.90 min(HAL,VAL)
Signal attenuation When C / N 0 drops below 52 dB-Hz

The modelled environment and the UAV geometry is

imported into the MATLABTM environment as shown
in Figure 15.The following integrity augmentation
modules of the system architecture are implemented in
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 Fig. 16. Multipath integrity alerts (trajectory 1).
models of the error sources as described in Section 4.

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 4


Fig. 15. Simulation of urban aerial navigation in MATLAB. Multipath Integrity alerts(trajectory 2)
The satellite and receiver parameters, and nominal values Caution flags 1~58
of free-space and atmospheric losses are as presented in Table
Warning Flags 9~11,23~25,27~42,48~51,55~57

The results for integrity alerts in response to GNSS
multipath are presented first. Figure 16 shows the caution and It is readily apparent that trajectory-2 (steady cruise at
warning flags raised due to estimated 2 positioning errors 125 m AGL) is comparatively favorable in that there are fewer
exceeding the HAL and VAL, and Table 3 shows the epochs instances of the 95% accuracy level exceeding the assigned
during the trajectory at which ABIA raises masking integrity HAL/VAL thresholds. An instance of a warning flag being
alerts(for trajectory 1). raised without a preceding caution flag occurs in epoch 41 of
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