EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

A low cost real-time kinematic dGPS system for measuring glacier movement

Kirk Martinez1, Jane Hart2, Sherif Attia1, Graeme Bragg1, Marcus Corbin1, Michael Jones1, Christian Kuhlmann1, Elliot Weaver1, Richard Wells1, Ioannis Christou1, and Emily James1
Kirk Martinez et al.
  • 1University of Southampton, Electronics and Computer Science, Southampton, United Kingdom (
  • 2University of Southampton, Geography and Environment, Southampton, United Kingdom (

Glacier movement has been measured over the years using commercial units such as those from Leica. The aim is to measure point movements on the glacier surface in order to capture fine-grained data about its movement. This can also help to calibrate satellite-based approaches which have much lower resolution. Commercial dGPS recorders cost thousands of Euros so our project is creating a solution using new lower cost dGPS boards which could enable their use by more earth scientists.

The u-blox Zed-F9P based boards from Sparkfun can be used as a base station to send dGPS corrections to “rover” units on the glacier via a radio link. Each measurement is accurate to about 2cm depending on conditions. In our design the radio is used by the rovers to forward good fixes back to the base station, which then uses off-site communications to send the data home. Two types of internet link have been enabled: using a nano-satellite board (by SWARM) and a more traditional GSM mobile phone board (for locations with coverage). Both these boards are also available from Sparkfun – making most of the modules off-the-shelf. However our power supply is optimised to save power and charge the lithium ion battery from a solar panel. A real-time clock chip is used to wake up the system to take readings and transmit data, so the sleep power is only 0.03 mW enabling a year-long lifetime. The whole system is controlled by a Sparkfun Thing Plus SAMD51 which provides the required four serial connections and a circuitpython  environment. The full system will be installed in Iceland in the summer of 2023 and replace the previous prototype based on Swift Piksi Multi units which had shown the measurement principle to be sound.

How to cite: Martinez, K., Hart, J., Attia, S., Bragg, G., Corbin, M., Jones, M., Kuhlmann, C., Weaver, E., Wells, R., Christou, I., and James, E.: A low cost real-time kinematic dGPS system for measuring glacier movement, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-2681,, 2023.