Scripps and Orange County Announce Landmark Real-Time GPS Project


The County of Orange recently implemented a groundbreaking new real-time Global Positioning System (GPS) network developed by the California Spatial Reference Center at Scripps Institution of Oceanography (UCSD) in La Jolla, Calif. The new system immediately aids surveyors with advanced positioning data and opens the door to new public and scientific applications that require highly precise location information. The pilot project of the Orange County Real-Time Network (OCRTN) was implemented in two phases over the past several months. Phase I allowed for the streaming of raw GPS data from an array of sites throughout Orange County to be sent to a central server located in the Orange County Surveyor's headquarters in Santa Ana.

The network provides both county and private surveyors the ability to receive real-time kinematic (RTK) data through cellular modems attached to a personal computer and obtain instantaneous three-dimensional position fixes in near real-time with centimeter-level horizontal precision and decimeter-level vertical precision.

The data is used by surveyors as control stations and also is used by the scientific community for earthquake (crustal) monitoring. Phase II of the project included making the data available to anyone via the Internet for real-time precise positioning.

OCRTN significantly benefits Orange County residents because it increases efficiency by allowing both public and private surveyors access to positioning data in real-time while conducting work in the field.

The network is a landmark achievement for Scripps's California Spatial Reference Center (CSRC), which offers state-of-the-art positioning technology to aid public health
and safety, preservation of valuable resources, and improved business productivity.

In addition to advancing surveying efficiency, the new system lays the groundwork for a broad range of important applications requiring real-time positioning such as police, fire, and public safety emergency response; public safety through airplane and boat navigation; meteorology and weather forecasting through atmospheric water vapor monitoring; infrastructure location through geographical information systems; and structural tracking through building, bridge, and dam monitoring.

"The OCRTN project demonstrated that high-accuracy, real-time, wireless positioning with GPS is viable and now we are moving forward by expanding the network and increasing the number of sites that are available in real-time," said Yehuda Bock, a research geodesist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and director of CSRC. "We also will be increasing the value of this network to the scientific community by integrating it with seismic sensors so that we can get a complete and instant description of earthquake displacements in a seismic event. We already have been able to measure in the OCRTN data the seismic waves propagating from November's magnitude 7.9 Denali (Alaska) earthquake."

The scientific backbone behind the project was fostered through the Southern California Integrated GPS Network (SCIGN), an array of GPS stations distributed throughout southern California.

"OCRTN is a major accomplishment for the County of Orange, Public Facilities and Resources Department, Geomatics Division. It was developed to support surveying applications, but in fact it supports many applications that require real-time, accurate positioning," stated John Canas, Manager/County Surveyor, Geomatics Division, Public Facilities and Resources Department, County of Orange. "It will revolutionize the way we acquire positioning data and have a significant impact on our lives."

Bock says the new system could lead to many future applications, including "smart cars" armed with automatic navigation and collision avoidance systems (which are being developed in conjunction with UC Irvine through the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology [Cal-(IT)2]).

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