Performance of GPS/GPRS tracking devices improves with increased fix interval and is not affected by animal deployment

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Abstract

The use of GPS tracking technologies has revolutionized the study of animal movement providing unprecedentedly detailed information. The characterization of GPS accuracy and precision under different conditions is essential to correctly identify the spatial and temporal resolution at which studies can be conducted. Here, we examined the influence of fix acquisition interval and device deployment on the performance of a new GPS/GSM solar powered device. Horizontal and vertical accuracy and precision of locations were obtained under different GPS fix acquisition intervals (1min, 20 min and 60 min) in a stationary test. The test devices were deployed on pre-fledgling white storks (Ciconia ciconia) and we quantified accuracy and precision after deployment while controlling for bias caused by variation in habitat, topography, and animal movement. We also assessed the performance of GPS-Error, a metric provided by the device, at identifying inaccurate locations (> 10 m). Average horizontal accuracy varied between 3.4 to 6.5 m, and vertical accuracy varied between 4.9 to 9.7 m, in high (1 min) and low frequency (60 min) GPS fix intervals. These values were similar after the deployment on white storks. Over 84% of GPS horizontal positions and 71% of vertical positions had less than 10m error in accuracy. Removing 3% of data with highest GPS-Error eliminated over 99% of inaccurate positions in high GPS frequency intervals, but this metric was not effective in the low frequency intervals. We confirmed the suitability of these devices for studies requiring horizontal and vertical accuracies of 5-10m. For higher accuracy data, intensive GPS fix intervals should be used, but this requires more sophisticated battery management, or larger batteries and devices.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0265541
JournalPLoS One
Volume17
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 Mar 2022

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