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Journal of Geodetic Science
Editor-in-Chief: Eshagh, Mehdi
Accuracy assessment of test flights using the Turnkey Airborne Gravity System over Alabama in 2008
The National Geodetic Survey (NGS) performed a few test flights using Micro-g’s Turnkey Airborne Gravity System (TAGS) at altitude of 1700, 6300 and 11000 meters over Alabama in 2008. The cross-track spacing was 10 km for the two lower flights and 5 km for the highest flight. The test flights not only provided important information regarding the precision and accuracy of the TAGS but also revealed the impact of flight altitudes and track spacing on the collected gravity data. The gravity anomalies at three altitudes were modeled using 3-dimensional Fourier series, then compared at the three altitudes. The agreement was excellent - the gravity anomalies agree with each other from 1.4 to 3.3 mGal RMS at the three altitudes. When the bias was removed, the agreement was improved to better than 1.1 mGal. On the ground (h =0), the three gravity models agree from 1.9 to 3.8 mGal RMS. After removing the mean, the agreement improved to better than 1.7 mGal. Similar results were obtained in comparison with recent surface gravity which was of sub-mGal accuracy. The overall agreement between the downward continued airborne gravity and the surface gravity was better than 1.7 mGal after removing the mean values.
As expected, the flight altitude had a direct impact on accuracy of the values of gravity downward continued to the Earth’s surface. The comparisons with terrestrial gravity show that gravity collected at 11000 m is having an accuracy of ±3 mGal on the ground. This accuracy is slightly worse than the other two altitudes most probably due to smaller signal/noise ratios and larger downward continuation effects. The RMS values of differences between the downward continued airborne gravity at altitude 1700 and 6300 meters and the surface gravity are 2.0 and 1.6 mGals, respectively. Based on these comparisons, airborne gravity data collected at altitudes below 6300 meters should result in accuracy better than ±2 mGals on the ground. Note, however, that the test area is flat and the accuracy of airborne gravity would likely be worse in more rugged mountainous regions.
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