Understanding RTK and PPK Surveying Technology A Comprehensive Guide

Surveying plays a crucial role in various fields, including construction, mapping, and land management. Over the years, advancements in technology have revolutionized the way surveys are conducted, leading to more accurate and efficient results. Among these technological breakthroughs, Real-Time Kinematic (RTK) and Post-Processed Kinematic (PPK) surveying techniques have emerged as powerful tools in the surveyor’s arsenal.

This comprehensive guide aims to provide a clear understanding of RTK and PPK surveying technology, exploring their principles, applications, and benefits. Whether you are a seasoned surveyor looking to expand your knowledge or a newcomer seeking to grasp the basics, this guide will serve as a valuable resource.

We will begin by delving into the fundamentals of RTK and PPK surveying, explaining how these technologies work and differ from traditional surveying methods. We will explore the underlying concepts of satellite positioning systems, such as the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), and how they enable precise measurements in the field.

What is RTK Surveying?

RTK surveying is a real-time positioning technique used in surveying and mapping applications to achieve highly accurate and precise measurements of points on the Earth’s surface. It is a form of differential GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) surveying that relies on a base station and one or more rovers to establish real-time positioning.

How RTK surveying works?

RTK surveying utilizes a network of GNSS satellites, such as GPS (Global Positioning System), GLONASS (Global Navigation Satellite System), or Galileo, to determine the precise position of the surveying equipment. The base station, typically situated at a known location with known coordinates, continuously receives signals from multiple satellites and calculates the errors in the received signals caused by atmospheric and other factors.

the rover, which is the mobile receiver unit used by the surveyor, also receives signals from the same satellites. The rover receiver communicates with the base station through radio or cellular communication links, allowing it to receive the corrected data in real time. By comparing the corrected data from the base station with the data received by the rover, the RTK system can determine the precise position of the rover with centimeter-level accuracy.

Advantages and limitations of RTK surveying

RTK surveying offers several advantages over traditional surveying methods, including:

  • Real-time positioning

RTK provides instantaneous and continuous positioning, enabling surveyors to see their measurements in real time. This feature allows for on-the-fly decision-making and immediate quality control.

  • High accuracy

RTK surveying can achieve centimeter-level accuracy, making it suitable for applications that require precise measurements, such as construction layout, boundary surveys, and infrastructure development.

  • Increased efficiency

With real-time positioning and accurate measurements, RTK surveying significantly improves productivity, as surveyors can complete their work faster without the need for time-consuming manual calculations.

  • Range limitations

RTK surveying typically has a limited working range due to the reliance on the radio or cellular communication link between the base station and the rover. Beyond a certain distance, the signal quality may degrade, leading to reduced accuracy or loss of real-time correction data.

  • Signal interference

RTK surveying can be affected by signal obstructions, such as tall buildings, trees, or terrain. These obstacles can interfere with satellite signals, leading to reduced accuracy or complete signal loss.

Common applications of RTK surveying technology:

RTK surveying finds applications in various fields, including:

  • Land surveying

RTK surveying is extensively used in land surveying for boundary determination, topographic mapping, and cadastral surveys. Its high accuracy and real-time capabilities make it invaluable for these applications.

  • Construction layout

RTK surveying is employed in construction projects for precise positioning of structures, foundations, utilities, and other elements. It enables accurate site preparation and minimizes errors during construction.

  • Precision agriculture

RTK surveying plays a crucial role in precision agriculture, where accurate positioning of machinery and data collection is essential for tasks such as variable rate application, field mapping, and yield monitoring.

  • Infrastructure development

RTK surveying is utilized in the planning, design, and construction of infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, and railways. It aids in accurate alignment, monitoring, and quality control.

What is PPK Surveying?

PPK surveying is a kinematic positioning technique used in surveying and mapping applications to achieve highly accurate and precise measurements of points on the Earth’s surface. PPK differs from RTK surveying in that it doesn’t require real-time communication between the base station and the rover. Instead, it relies on post-processing the collected data after the surveying is complete.

How PPK surveying works?

In PPK surveying, the rover receiver, similar to RTK, collects GNSS signals from satellites (such as GPS, GLONASS, or Galileo) during the surveying process. However, unlike RTK, the rover receiver doesn’t receive real-time corrections from a base station. Instead, it logs the raw GNSS data, including the satellite signals and their precise timing information, along with the onboard receiver’s position.

After the surveying is completed, the collected data from the rover receiver is post-processed using specialized software. This software combines the rover data with data from a reference station, which is typically a GNSS base station with known coordinates that operates independently of the surveying process. By comparing the data collected by the rover with the reference station’s data, the PPK software calculates precise positioning information, including highly accurate coordinates for the surveyed points.

Advantages and limitations of PPK surveying:

PPK surveying offers several advantages over other surveying methods, including:

  • Flexibility

PPK surveying provides flexibility in terms of surveying operations since it doesn’t require real-time communication with a base station. Surveyors can collect data in remote or challenging environments where real-time correction data may not be available.

  • High accuracy

Similar to RTK, PPK surveying can achieve centimeter-level accuracy. By post-processing the data, the PPK software can account for and correct errors, such as atmospheric and satellite clock errors, resulting in highly accurate measurements.

  • Greater working range

PPK surveying has a greater working range compared to RTK since it doesn’t rely on real-time communication with a base station. Surveyors can collect data over extended distances and process it later, expanding the surveying capabilities.

  • Post-processing time

PPK surveying requires post-processing of the collected data using specialized software. This process takes additional time compared to real-time surveying methods. Surveyors need to account for the post-processing time when planning their projects.

  • Limited real-time feedback

PPK surveying doesn’t provide immediate real-time feedback on measurement quality during the surveying process. Any issues or errors discovered during post-processing may require revisiting the field, which can lead to additional time and effort.

Common applications of PPK surveying technology:

PPK surveying finds applications in various fields, including:

  • Aerial mapping and photogrammetry

PPK surveying is commonly used in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) surveys and aerial mapping missions. It enables precise positioning of the UAV during data collection, which is essential for accurate orthophoto generation and 3D modeling.

  • Marine and hydrographic surveys

PPK surveying is utilized in hydrographic surveys for mapping underwater terrain and measuring water depths. It provides accurate positioning for sonar systems, enabling the creation of detailed bathymetric maps.

  • Geodetic surveys

PPK surveying is employed in geodetic surveys, which involve the precise measurement and monitoring of Earth’s features and movements. It aids in activities such as crustal deformation analysis, tectonic plate monitoring, and geodetic network densification.

  • Mining and quarrying

PPK surveying is used in mining and quarrying operations for accurate stockpile volume calculations, pit mapping, and monitoring of excavation progress. It facilitates efficient resource management and production planning.

Real Time Kinematic (RTK)  Survey Post Processed Kinematic (PPK) Survey
RTK is a GPS correction technology that makes changes to the data collected on-site in real time. PPK is a GPS correction technology that collects all of the location data for a survey first and then sends corrections to the device from a remote location.


RTK doesn’t need to do anything to the data after it has been collected, so there is no need for software packages that do that. The data that was collected for the PPK survey needs to be processed afterward, which requires specialised software and office work.


To do the RTK correction, the base station and the rover receiver (drones) must always be able to talk to each other. When the link between the base and the rover breaks, data is lost. PPK doesn’t need a strong signal between the rover (drone) and the base station or GPS communication.


RTK works best in flat areas without trees, mountains, or other things that could get in the way of communication between the drone and the necessary base station. PPK drones are best for longer flights and can be used for activities beyond the line of sight (BVLOS).


RTK can be used for baselines up to 80 km long. PPK survey can be used for baselines that are up to 100 km long.


RTK is less flexible due to its baseline restrictions and requirement for continuous signal. PPK is very flexible because the rover can be sent out in more ways and places.




RTK and PPK surveying technologies offer highly accurate and precise measurements in various fields. RTK provides real-time positioning with high accuracy, while PPK offers flexibility and a greater working range. Each technology has its advantages and limitations. RTK is ideal for real-time applications like land surveying and construction, while PPK is suitable for post-processing data in aerial mapping, marine surveys, and geodetic applications. By understanding and utilizing these technologies effectively, surveyors can enhance their efficiency and decision-making in the field.







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