Post-processing GPS/GNSS Base Station Position

Sharon Bywater-Reyes, Ph. D.
Assistant Professor of Environmental Geosciences, University of Northern Colorado


This assignment uses static GNSS methods to establish a base station used to establish a control point for a kinematic survey (establishing ground control points used in Structure from Motion for Analysis of River Characteristics activity).

Day 2 - This activity is part of the 2-week remote field course Geoscience Field Issues Using High-Resolution Topography to Understand Earth Surface Processes

In spring 2020, the world was hit by a pandemic that spread globally by March, causing universities and most of the world to move to remote means. Summer field camps, long hailed as a rite of passage in the geosciences, were canceled throughout the US. The community moved quickly, with NAGT developing remote learning tools and arranging for sharing and collaboration between instructors and institutions. As such, UNAVCO (GETSI)and University of Northern Colorado embarked on a data collection campaign for a summer field course entitled "Geoscience Field Issues Using High-Resolution Topography to Understand Earth Surface Processes" – originally slated for in-person teaching. The team collected GPS/GNSS data, drone imagery for use in structure from motion, and terrestrial laser scanning from a site near Greeley, Colorado on the Poudre River.

Used this activity? Share your experiences and modifications



This exercise is intended for majors-level geoscience courses that have field or remote (online) field components.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

This exercise assumes students have some familiarity with Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) such as the Global Positioning System (GPS), map projections, and coordinate systems. It complements, and could follow as homework after students do elements of Unit 1: GPS/GNSS Fundamentals from the GETSI module High Precision Positioning with Static and Kinematic GPS/GNSS.

How the activity is situated in the course

This exercise can come just about anywhere in a course from very early to near the end; but should come before more advanced work with GPS/GNSS and should follow a lecture on GPS/GNSS systems. In addition to the lecture, I also included an activity on accuracy and precision from the GETSI's Unit 1: GPS/GNSS Fundamentals in the module High Precision Positioning with Static and Kinematic GPS/GNSS.

This activity is the first component of a virtual field campaign and associated activities outlined in the course Geoscience Field Issues Using High-Resolution Topography to Understand Earth Surface Processes.

Activity Length

This activity should not take more than an hour to complete. It could be assigned as homework and then followed up with a discussion the following day.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Post-processing a datafile collected from a GNSS receiver during a static GNSS campaign into a known x, y, z coordinate to establish a control point.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Interpreting a static GNSS report for coordinate solution accuracy and the appropriate use of a coordinate system, geoid model, and ellipsoid height.

Other skills goals for this activity

Properly reading a scale and converting units.

Description and Teaching Materials

This exercise substituted students having hands-on training setting up and collecting GPS/GNSS data in a field course. It could easily be used following an actual in-person data collection campaign. In this case, a Septentrio receiver was set up over a marked location for ~4 hours at the Poudre River at Sheep Draw site, established as a virtual field location.

The instructor starts out with a synchronous lecture (remote or in person) on GPS/GNSS methods (~45 mins), such as outlined in Unit 1: GPS/GNSS Fundamentals and Unit 2: Kinematic GPS/GNSS Methods. An exercise such as GETSI's GPS/GNSS Accuracy & Precision exercise is also potentially valuable.

Students are introduced to the Poudre at Sheep Draw field site and GNSS methods with videos shot during data collection. Students are then given the RINEX data file and images of the antenna slant height measured during receiver setup and are prompted to use OPUS (Online Positioning User Service) to post-process the file. Students then interpret the OPUS report for the x, y, z location and error of the point used as a known coordinate for a real-time kinematic base in a subsequent activity. A synchronous class discussion follows (remote or in person) to discuss results. As an alternative to OPUS, the Canadian Precise Point Positioning server can be used.


Technology Needs

A computer with internet access. No GNSS equipment is needed if the Poudre River at Sheep Draw data provided are used.

Teaching Notes and Tips

  • Be prepared for students to read the antenna height measurement incorrectly and convert it incorrectly, which propagates to final x, y, z coordinates.
  • Students struggle with the concept of orthometric vs ellipsoid height and that of a geoid model. Some students also struggle with different coordinate systems and may need a review.


Formative assessment should be done through discussion with students as a whole group or individually.

As the summative assessment, students write a paragraph explaining their procedure, interpreting the results, and the difference between ellipsoid height and orthometric height, and anything that was surprising or confusing about the results. A rubric is included with the assignment.

References and Resources

Comment? Start the discussion about Post-processing GPS/GNSS Base Station Position