Journal of Navigation

Research Article

Multi-Constellation GNSS Performance Evaluation for Urban Canyons Using Large Virtual Reality City Models

Lei Wanga1, Paul D Grovesa1 c1 and Marek K Ziebarta1

a1 (University College London)


Positioning using the Global Positioning System (GPS) is unreliable in dense urban areas with tall buildings and/or narrow streets, known as ‘urban canyons’. This is because the buildings block, reflect or diffract the signals from many of the satellites. This paper investigates the use of 3-Dimensional (3-D) building models to predict satellite visibility. To predict Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) performance using 3-D building models, a simulation has been developed. A few optimized methods to improve the efficiency of the simulation for real-time purposes were implemented. Diffraction effects of satellite signals were considered to improve accuracy. The simulation is validated using real-world GPS and GLObal NAvigation Satellite System (GLONASS) observations.

The performance of current and future GNSS in urban canyons is then assessed by simulation using an architectural city model of London with decimetre-level accuracy. GNSS availability, integrity and precision is evaluated over pedestrian and vehicle routes within city canyons using different combinations of GNSS constellations. The results show that using GPS and GLONASS together cannot guarantee 24-hour reliable positioning in urban canyons. However, with the addition of Galileo and Compass, currently under construction, reliable GNSS performance can be obtained at most, but not all, of the locations in the test scenarios. The modelling also demonstrates that GNSS availability is poorer for pedestrians than for vehicles and verifies that cross-street positioning errors are typically larger than along-street due to the geometrical constraints imposed by the buildings. For many applications, this modelling technique could also be used to predict the best route through a city at a given time, or the best time to perform GNSS positioning at a given location.

(Online publication March 23 2012)


  • GNSS;
  • Urban Canyons;
  • 3-D City Model;
  • 3-D GIS


c1 (E-mail: