Why you need an RTK License for your drone - COPTRZ

Why you need an RTK License for your drone

Beth Jackson

3:52 pm GMT •

March 01, 2021

What is an RTK License? What does it do? Why do you need one?

You wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t already know about the game-changing impact that drones are having on the surveying and construction industry. It can be overwhelming understanding all of the different licenses available to drone pilots, what they do, why you need them and what they are used for. This week we are going to be talking you through what an RTK License is and why you may need one.

In this ever-changing world of technology, refining and improving the concept of “ultimate precision” sits proudly at the top of the list for many innovators. RTK (Real-Time Kinematic) is a GPS correction-technology technique that provides real-time corrections to location data when the survey drone is capturing photos of a site. Real-time correction is a major industry advantage.

An RTK Licence allows users to achieve centimetre level accuracy in real time where there is a phone signal. RTK makes GPS/GNSS a very efficient tool for surveys, construction staking, machine control and many other ways where precise real-time positioning is valuable.

James Pick, Coptrz UAV expert for the Surveying industry, commented: “We are very proud to be offering RTK licenses to the survey industry as a partner of Premium Positioning. Our service offers the same reliability and accuracy by utilises the established Ordnance Surveys base Stations across the UK as other service providers in this field, ours are just more competitively priced!”

If you are interested in finding out more about RTK Licenses, keep reading on!


A look into the background of RTK

RTK (Real-Time Kinematic) is a proven method of positioning in real-time at the cm-level. RTK was invented in the early 1990’s and by the late 1990’s, RTK became a reliable, mainstream technology for surveying and construction. By this time, the CORS (Continually Operating Reference Station) concept was growing, users were individually buying a lot of reference stations to support their RTK operations and were operating in metropolitan areas, such as London.

There are some critical components for successful RTK operations:

  1. RTK-capable GPS/GNSS receiver
  2. Satellite observables
  3. Solid, reliable communication between base and rover

What is an RTK License used for?

The primary benefit of RTK is its pinpoint location accuracy. RTK brings immense benefits for drone pilots as it enables them to get the pinpoint location of the UAV, which allows exact hovering in all conditions.

Drones that feature RTK allow pilots to fly close to objects and operate in small spaces. RTK also provides the pilot with meticulous data, even when the aircraft is moving.

Apart from location accuracy, RTK GPD also shields against electromagnetic field and radio frequency interference. This type of interference typically occurs when aircraft fly close to radio towers, power lines and metal edifices. EMF and RF frequency can disrupt your aircraft’s flight by forcing it to enter ATTI mode which will eventually lead to either drone crash or flyaway.

An RTK License an ideal choice for enterprise pilots for industrial applications. Apart from protection, RTK is also helpful in geotagging of the data captured by the aircraft that includes both video and images.

The ultimate aim of RTK is to establish how many carrier waves there are between the antenna and the satellite. The reason for this is simple. Each satellite broadcasts a unique C/A code made up of 1,023 bits. The code is sent at a rate of 1.023 Mb/s, which means one bit is sent about every microsecond. In one microsecond the radio signal from the satellite covers a distance of about 300 metres.

What is an RTK Drone?

An RTK drone carries an onboard GNSS RTK receiver that gathers data from satellites and a stationary base (ground) station to more accurately correct image location, in real time as it flies. The data from a ground station is factored in to correct satellite signal error, bringing accuracy down to cm (sub-inch)-level range – perfect for surveyors.

In the case of RTK technology, uninterrupted communications are required from the GNSS base station, through the drone base station to the drone. When the drone lands, if all signals were constant, data with absolute accuracy is available for post processing into mapping survey results.

The RTK Base Station is comprised of an antenna, receiver and radio link to provide RTK correction signals to the auto guidance system. Furthermore, the base stations can receive both GPS and GLONASS signals.

Our National RTK Network includes 85 base stations around England, Scotland and Wales and utilises 4 GNSS collections. We like to make purchasing and utilising our network fast, simple and cost-effective.

You can see the location’s of RTK Base Stations in the UK below:

RTK requires four constant communication lines to correct satellite location data: 1. the line between satellites and drone, 2. the line between satellites and GNSS base station or CORS (supporting VRS via mobile) network, 3. the line between the GNSS base station or CORS/VRS and the drone base station, and 4. the line between drone base station and drone.

Matrice 300 RTK 

TheMatrice 300 RTK is the latest Commercial Drone Platform by DJI, designed to improve upon the popular features of the Matrice 200 Series and give you an even more capable, rugged and versatile solution.

The DJI Matrice 300 RTK is essentially the mothership of DJI drones. It’s the pinnacle of drone innovation and gives us an insight into the future of machine learning on drone development. The consultation with their key customer base is clear. It’s like DJI sat down with a powerline inspection company, a search and rescue team and a public safety consultant and asked them to make a wish list. And boy did they deliver!

The M300 RTK is compatible with most of the Zenmuse range, including the Zenmuse XT S, XT2 and Z30 but the launch of the DJI Matrice 300 RTK coincided with the release of another new sensor, designed specifically to compliment the latest commercial drone in the DJI fleet. The Zenmuse H20 and H20T are only compatible with the DJI M300 RTK. The H20 is a hybrid sensor with laser rangefinder, zoom and wide-angle camera options. The H20T adds an additional radiometric thermal camera function.


DJI Matrice 210 RTK 

The Matrice 210 RTK V2 is the premium model in the Matrice series, benefitting from dual gimbal compatibility and RTK functionality. This is particularly useful in industries such as search & rescue or solar panel inspection where a user may require simultaneous HD imaging and thermal imaging. The M210 RTK V2 is compatible with a range of payloads for commercial operations. Compatible payloads include: DJI Zenmuse Z30, DJI Zenmuse X4S, DJI Zenmuse X5S, DJI Zenmuse X7 and DJI Zenmuse XT.

You can see the Matrice 210 RTK in action here:

DJI Phantom 4 RTK 

A new RTK module is integrated directly into the Phantom 4 RTK, providing real-time, centimetre-level positioning data for improved absolute accuracy on image metadata. In addition to optimized flight safety and precise data collection, the Phantom 4 RTK stores satellite observation data to be used for Post Processed Kinematics (PPK), which can be conducted using DJI Cloud PPK Service*. Fit the Phantom 4 RTK to any workflow, with the ability to connect this positioning system to the D-RTK 2 High Precision GNSS Mobile Station, or NTRIP (Network Transport of RTCM via Internet Protocol) using a 4G dongle or WiFi hotspot. You can find out more about the Phantom 4 RTK here.

Here’s a data sample captured with the Phantom 4 RTK and processed in Pix4dMapper to show you the quality of data that can be captured in a single flight:

RTK for Surveying and Mapping

RTK is immensely beneficial for improving vertical accuracy while surveying stockpile. Using a combination of RTK and waypoints, accuracy in mapping and surveying can also be improved dramatically. Waypoints also create autonomous flights on pre-selected courses.

RTK ensures that your drone remains on course both vertically and horizontally.

RTK in Powerline Inspection

Apart from the telecommunication industry, RTK has been massively beneficial in powerline inspection. It has promoted safety along with productivity. RTK can embrace electromagnetic interference without causing any interruption in your drone’s flight.

RTK in Offshore Rig Inspection

Regular inspection of the offshore rig is essential for ensuring worker’s safety. Carrying out inspections using RTK powered drones will provide accurate information but also save time.

Want to know more about an RTK License?

Are you paying too much for your Network RTK Licence? As part of Coptrz commitment to the survey industry we offer 1-year Network RTK licences in Low or Unlimited usage with an optional M2M Sim card included.

Our RTK Licences are compatible with all types of machinery and equipment when it comes to centimetre accurate positioning including Machine Control and the SmartRover to drones.

Our National RTK Network includes 85 base stations around England, Scotland and Wales and utilises 4 GNSS collections. We like to make purchasing and utilising our network fast, simple and cost-effective. You can find out more about our RTK Licenses here.

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