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What is the Difference Between RTK & DGPS?


To achieve near-perfect accuracy in surveying operations is no simple feat. As the planet is constantly moving through space, in a persistent rotation, determining the exact three-dimensional position of an object or location is not as simple as using a measuring tape. Instead, we must use multiple reference points, complex mathematical calculations and skilled professionals to get the desired results. 

Like most technology, however, surveying equipment has improved over time. We have talked previously about the dumpy level and how things have changed since its heyday. Still, the dumpy level is relatively low-tech compared to the cloud-serviced, satellite-positioned options we have available today. 

Now that digital surveying equipment has become the mainstay for construction, astronomy, agriculture and most other surveying operations, it is important to know the differences between electronic systems. Today, we look at GNSS receivers, RTK GPS and DGPS to determine how they have evolved from previous technologies and what the differences between them are.

GNSS Receivers, RTK GPS and DGPS: What’s the Difference?


GNSS Receivers

The most basic option for digital surveying is a single Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) receiver. This is often a component of the more complex DGPS and RTK GPS systems, but it is basic in the sense that it does not do any corrections. It simply measures the distance between the rover and the base station and calls it a day.


Differential Global Positioning Systems (DGPS) are like an upgrade to GNSS receivers. They still measure the distance between the rover and base station, but they then communicate with land-based stations within range and satellite-based systems also. These stations perform real-time corrections to their position and, when used in conjunction with the data from the DGPS, they can improve the accuracy to within 40 cm. 


Finally, we have the most advanced version of surveying equipment, namely Real-time Kinematic Global Positioning Systems (RTK GPS). These devices perform the same functions as GNSS receivers and DGPS, but they also have additional computations during the data processing stage. They use additional formulas for correcting the ionospheric delay and satellite clock errors that are present with DGPS alternatives.

Find your RTK GPS Surveying Equipment Solutions Right Here

Hopefully, you have found this information about GNSS receivers, DGPS and RTK GPS informative and helpful. If you would like to learn more about the systems utilizing this technology and how they help you, contact us! We look forward to hearing from you!

Bench Mark Equipment & Supplies is your team to trust with all your surveying equipment. We have been providing high-quality surveying equipment to land surveyors, engineers, construction, airborne and resource professionals since 2002. This helps establish ourselves as the go-to team in Calgary, Canada, and the USA. Plus, we provide a wide selection of equipment, including global navigation satellite systems, RTK GPS equipment, GNSS receivers, and more. We strive to provide the highest level of customer care and service for everyone. To speak to one of our team today, call us at 403-286-0333 or email us [email protected]

About the Author

Nolan has been working in the surveying field since 2017, starting as a part-time student at Bench-Mark while attending the University of Calgary. He now works in technical support and sales helping customers find the right product for them.

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