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Raspberry Pi Reflector (RPR): a Low-cost Water-level Monitoring System based on GNSS Interferometric Reflectometry
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  • Makan A. Karegar,
  • Jürgen Kusche,
  • Felipe Geremia-Nievinski,
  • Kristine M. Larson
Makan A. Karegar
Institute of Geodesy and Geoinformation, University of Bonn

Corresponding Author:karegar@uni-bonn.de

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Jürgen Kusche
University of Bonn
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Felipe Geremia-Nievinski
Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul
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Kristine M. Larson
University of Colorado Boulder
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Although reflectometry had not been considered as a primary application of GPS and similar Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS), fast-growing GNSS tracking networks has led to the emergence of GNSS interferometric reflectometry technique for monitoring surface changes such as water level. However, geodetic GNSS instruments are expensive, which is a limiting factor for their prompt and more widespread deployment as a dedicated environmental sensing technique. We present a prototype called Raspberry Pi Reflector (RPR) that includes a low-cost and low-maintenance single-frequency GPS module and a navigation antenna connected to an inexpensive Raspberry Pi microcomputer. A unit has been successfully operating for almost two years since March 2020 in Wesel (Germany) next to the Rhine river. Sub-daily and daily water levels are retrieved using spectral analysis of reflection data. The river level measurements from RPR are compared with a co-located river gauge. We find an RMSE of 7.6 cm in sub-daily estimates and 6 cm in daily means of river level. In August 2021, we changed the antenna orientation from upright to sideways facing the river. The RMSE dropped to 3 cm (sub-daily) and 1.5 cm (daily) with the new orientation. While satellite radar altimetry techniques have been utilized to monitor water levels with global coverage, their measurements are associated with moderate uncertainties and temporal resolution. Therefore, such low-cost and high-precision instruments can be paired with satellite data for calibrating, validating and modeling purposes. These instruments are financially (< US$ 150) and technically accessible worldwide.