Triangulation: Adelaide River - Pine Creek area NT, 1953

On the completion of the Bass Strait triangulation the Section lost a large proportion of its field staff. Two of the four observers, D.R. Hocking and E.J. Caspers took up duty in the office and two field assistants resigned.

The next task was to be some triangulation south of Adelaide River in the Northern Territory. This was to provide horizontal and vertical control for geological and geophysical work by the Bureau of Mineral Resources in that area. Coordinates and heights were required of points on which their Shoran navigation equipment was to be sited. National Mapping's operation was to be on a small scale, party leader J. Hunter, observers P.H. Lennie and R.A. Ford, 2 field assistants and 1 drafting assistant. Two vehicles only were available, one Land Rover and one Morris 6 cylinder 4 x 4, one and a half ton truck.

These Morris 4 X 4 vehicles ware an ideal size for our work at this time. They were designed for the British Army and were typically robust in construction. However unfortunately they were found to have a design fault in the rear differential and this was to cause considerable trouble and expense during most of the service life of these vehicles.

The starting points of the survey were to be stations on the old 1870 triangulation scheme, datum point “Darwin Pillar”. This was located near the site of the old Darwin Post office which was almost destroyed daring the 1942 air raids. Wild T3 theodolites were to be needed and the observations were to be to first order standards so that they could be used in the primary geodetic survey when it eventually got to that area. Preliminary computations were to be completed in the field to enable preliminary coordinates to be supplied to the Bureau of Mineral Resources field parties who would be in the area at the same time.

Taking the two vehicles by train from Quorn in SA to Alice Springs and then proceeding north along the Stuart Highway, the survey party arrived in the area early in July. They had with them some prefabricated “Unimet” beacons with bondwood vanes designed by the Chief Topographic Surveyor. “Unimet” was the brand name for one of the types of slotted angle iron designed for building shelves etc. It came in standard 10 foot lengths. Figure 1 shows one of these beacons.

Work immediately commenced on locating, clearing and beaconing the old survey stations. Only one of the old station marks could not be located on Mt Paqualin. A new mark was established as close as could be ascertained to the centre of the base of the old collapsed cairn, and four stations of the original quad, Mt Foelsche - Mt Ringwood - Mt Ellison - New Mt Paqualin were re-observed. With only two vehicles and two observing/cum beaconing parties work was fairly slow. The shortage of vehicles made it necessary to establish a base camp to store surplus stores and also serve as a computing centre. The camp was made on the north bank of Adelaide River a few hundred yards east of the Stuart Highway bridge. It was a pleasant place in the shade of river gums and high bamboo with running water alongside.

On the completion of the re-observation of the old quad, and while the Senior Surveyor was finalising the computations, R.A. Ford and P.H. Lennie went on reconnaissance to locate the necessary new stations, Plateau Point, Fountain Head and Garibaldi were selected (Garibaldi being a point required for a Shoran beacon site by the Bureau – refer paper attached at end of this Chapter – Ed.). It was a lone small hill in plain country near the Daly River. Owing to this featureless plain it was only possible to make this connection by using single triangles.

Figure 1: Prefabricated beacon used on the Adelaide River triangulation

Figure 2: Makeshift beacon made from “scrounged” material and used in the Pine creek area, NT

On this beaconing and reconnaissance trip the rear differential of the Morris truck gave up. The rear tailshaft was disconnected and the task was finished using front wheel drive; the vehicle was then sent to Darwin for repairs. It was comparatively new with only about 2000 miles on the speedo, was almost empty and driving along the sealed Stuart Highway at the time.

As the observing was drawing to a close a new task was allotted, this was further south near Pine Creek. Here, at Gandys Hill the old scheme degenerated to a single point connection with the triangulation further south. The instruction was to reconnoitre the extra station or stations required to turn this single point connection into a normal triangulation figure and then observe as required. When the observations in the Adelaide River area were complete and while preparations to make beacons were being made the Senior Surveyor completed this reconnaissance. He found that only one new station, Cullen, would be required to turn the single point connection into two quads, thus making the whole a solid triangulation chain,

The prefabricated beacons had all been used and there was no money available to purchase material locally for their manufacture. It was therefore necessary to “scrounge” material from the old abandoned army camps for this purpose. The beacon devised was a single length of G.I. water pipe as the mast, with circular vanes cut from old sheet galvanised roofing iron. This beacon was set vertically over the station mark using two theodolites. Four wire “guys” tightened by turnbuckles ensured accuracy of adjustment. All the material except black paint and cement came from the old camps. An example of one of these beacons is shown in Figure 2.

The Senior Surveyor now took the completed field books of the Adelaide River scheme to Darwin where he was to complete the computations required by the Bureau of Mineral Resources. He proceeded by vehicle with one field assistant. The rest of the party in the single vehicle proceeded to the Pine Creek area and established a base camp at Fergusson River, almost beneath the railway bridge with its once a week rail‑motor. This was also a pleasant camping spot by the river, although it had a deep pleasant pool wan not running at this time of the year, it now being September.

Once the base camp was established. clearing began at the station sites. There was plenty of it particularly on Mt Saunders and Foelsche Headland. Mt Saunders was difficult to find; when eventually found it was about a mile from the area indicated to the party and it was in the form of a “lockspit” hidden in the long grass and timber. It had been expected to find the usual cairn. Foelsche Headland vas a large flat topped residual and at least a half mile of clearing on the backline was required to enable the sighting of a skied beacon. Luckily the forward line was shorter and also that much of the timber was “piped” by white ants. However in the heat it was no easy task and all were exhausted after that days work. The field assistant and vehicle had returned from Darwin just in time to help in this clearing.

Owing to the type of beacon employed it was not possible to set over the station mark so this was to be National Mappings first experience of using eccentric stations on a large scale. The Senior Surveyor had not returned from Darwin therefore it was necessary for the observers to also keep up with the computations while observing proceeded. October arrived before the observing was completed and with it came the early thunderstorms. These delayed the final completion of the survey work and the observing party at Foelsche Headland looked like being trapped there for some time because of boggy roads; they just managed to get out.

All the computations were completed and despite inexperience with eccentric corrections which had caused some trepidation, no trouble was experienced by the observers in solving this problem.

Figure 3 shows the scheme diagram of the Adelaide River and Pine Creek surveys.

The survey party closed down the field work and reported to the Senior Surveyor who was still in Darwin. He and P.H. Lennie returned to Melbourne by air the remainder of the party under R.A. Ford was given a further task, the photo-identification of survey points along the Stuart Highway on their way south to Alice Springs. From there they returned to Quorn by rail and then road to Melbourne. This completed a solid year, all on triangulation surveys.

During the year the National Mapping Section had been renamed the National Mapping Office.

Field Party, 1953

J. Hunter

Senior Surveyor

R.A. Ford

Field Assistant (Survey)

P.H. Lennie

Field Assistant (Survey)

W.J. Dingeldei

Field Assistant

J. Carrucan

Field Assistant

K.O. Johnson

Field Assistant

Additional Photos of Darwin Pillar, Reg Ford & Unknown with vehicles loaded on train and vehicles loaded on train at Quorn, SA,1953

Application of Shoran to Australian Mapping

by G. R. L. Rimington, F. E. McCarthy and R. A. Robinson


Shoran used to fix position of scintillometer flights, and control for planimetric maps, in uraniferous areas in the Northern Territory. Overseas use. Australian experiments. Reasons for using Shoran. Description of Shoran equipment. Method of fixing geographical.positions of Shoran beacons and mapping control points. Selection of control points. Plotting of scintillometer results. Analysis of results. Lecture given 29 July 1954, by G. R. L. Rimington, Chief Topographic Surveyor, National Mapping Office; F. E. McCarthy, Supervising Geophysicist, Bureau of Mineral Resources; and R. A. Robinson, National Mapping Office.


The first Australian application of Shoran to control mapping was in the project at present nearing completion in the Rum Jungle area; of the Northern Territory. Accurate planimetric maps were required to serve as a base for prospectors' charts, at one mile to an inch, showing radio-active anomalies obtained from air-borne scintillometer surveys conducted by the Bureau of Mineral Resources.

Overseas use

Shoran along with other forms of radar has been used overseas to some extent in connection with triangulation and mapping. However, reports on the routine use of radar for mapping in other countries are very few, although extensive experimental work has been reported from England. In general, there are three instances where radar has been used in a routine mapping pro­ject overseas and in order of import­ance they are :

1.        Establishment of a network of geodetic survey in Canada using Shoran.

2.        Overwater triangulation by the United States using Shoran.

3.        Extensive mapping at medium scales in Africa by means of Gee H. (British type of radar).

The Canadian network is very exten­sive and when completed, it is hoped this year, will give control points ex­tending over most of Canada from lati­tude 50° N. to latitude 66° N. and from longitude 120° W. to longitude 70° W. The axial length of the chain of tri­angles will be 5,500 miles and will form a huge arc having considerable connec­tions to five geodetic bases.

The overwater triangulation - or as it is often called, Trilateration - has been used in the United States to con­nect islands to the main geodetic chain. Generally, Shoran operations in the United States have been, as in Canada, confined to the establishment of basic control.

In Africa, British organizations have carried out a good deal of work estab­lishing minor control for mapping oper­ations at medium scale, but no com­prehensive reports are available on the results obtained.

Figure 2 – Shoran receiver                                     Figure 3 – Beacon equipment

Australian Experiments

The first experiments in the applica­tion of Shoran to mapping in Australia, arose from the formation of a Sub­committee of the National Mapping Council, whose task was to report on the possibility of using this means of accelerating the mapping programme.

This committee arranged with the Commonwealth Scientific and Indus­trial Research Organization, which was in possession of a number of units of equipment, to carry out tests.

In line with most other countries, the tests were devoted to the establishment of basic control. An ideal test area existed in N.S.W. where it was possible to measure all six lines of a quadrilateral, the position and lengths of which were fixed by existing triangula­tion, This quadrilateral was located with points at Condobolin, Tamworth, Sydney and Canberra, the lines vary­ing in length from 158 to 311 miles.

Mr. J. Warner of the C.S.I.R.O. car­ried out the tests and reported them in the Australian Journal of Applied Science, Vol. I, No. 2, 1950. His conclusions are interesting and are quoted :

"This method of distance measure­ment using the line-crossing technique gave an average accuracy of roughly one part in 15,000 when measuring lines of 160 to 310 miles in length. The greatest source of error is the radar equipment that was used and is asso­ciated with signal strength. It is con­sidered that by suitable modification to the equipment, in particular to the receivers, this signal intensity error could be reduced to within 10 feet. If this were done, it is likely that the overall accuracy of the technique would improve to about 1 part in 50,000.

"An improvement on this latter figure would be impossible without ex­tensive improvements to the radar equipment. In addition, a thorough in­vestigation of the problems of atmo­spheric refraction would be necessary."

Figure 4. KEY DIAGRAM. 1. Shoran controlled parallel flight lines. 2. No. 1 Shoran beacon. 3. No. 2 Shoran beacon. 4. Shoran pulses. 5. Radio-active deposit. 6. Area covered by scintillometer. 7. Radiations. 8. Scintillometer instrument panel. 9. Instrument recorder. 10. Instrument panel. 11. Shoran transmitter. 12. Sharon receiver. 13. Instrument recorder. 14. Instrument camera. 15. Instrument panel. 16. Shoran distance indicators. 17. Shoran transmitter. 18. Communications equipment. 19. Beacon transmitter. 20. Beacon receiver monitor. 21. Handwheels. 22. Repeater motor dials. 23. Cathode-ray oscillograph. 24. Distance indicating dials. 25. Shoran receiver.

Whilst these tests were being carried out, a representative of the National Mapping Office acted as an observer, to try and gather some idea of the econ­omics of the whole problem. The facts that he gathered in regard to the opera­tion of the equipment were such that the Subcommittee on Radar could not recommend the method as an economic proposition.

It was felt by the Subcommittee that the demands on money and manpower required to use Shoran for mapping purposes would be beyond the very tiny resources of the existing National Map­ping Office. Regretfully, the "seven league boots" of Shoran were placed in cold storage, and the classic methods of mapping control were continued.

This "cold storage" did not last very long (two years), as the discovery of uranium in Australia altered the econ­omic aspects. It was not so much the discovery of uranium that so largely altered the position, but rather the development of the airborne scintillo­meter. This instrument revolutionized the search for uranium, and also brought with it extensive demands for accurate mapping and its associated control.

Use of Shoran Equipment

Search for Uranium

One of the functions of the Bureau of Mineral Resources is to conduct air­borne surveys in the search for urani­frous deposits. These surveys are car­ried out using a D.C.3 type aircraft in which the detecting equipment is housed along with navigation and auxiliary equipment.

The navigation aids include a set of Shoran equipment and a radio alti­meter along with the standard naviga­tion instruments such as compasses, radio compass, barometric altimeter, etc.

The equipment used to detect radio­activity from the ground flown over is the scintillometer. This is a recent development and is much more sensitive than any arrangement of Geiger-tubes which may be used. Nevertheless, the scintillometer has limitations when used in an aircraft. The most serious of these is the inability to detect gamma radia­tions from a "point" source deposit of radioactive ore when the distance, in air, between the scintillometer and the source is more than 800 feet. Because of this limitation the aircraft carrying the scintillometer is flown at height no greater than 500 feet above the ground; and to obtain adequate coverage of an area suspected of containing radio­active minerals, the aircraft is flown along parallel flight lines one-fifth of a mile apart. (Figure 4)


It is not possible to navigate an air­craft flying 500 feet over wooded country along parallel flight lines of such close spacing by normal means of navigation. Consequently, some radio or radar means of navigation is re­quired. The various types of radio navi­gation aids were investigated, and it was decided to use Shoran. The reasons for this choice were:

   i.      that the Shoran equipment was readily available on loan from C.S.I.R.O.;

  ii.      that the ground beacon units were more portable and required less power than beacon for any other system;

iii.      that the system would give the desired degree of accuracy for positioning of the aircraft.

It was realized that the Shoran equip­ment operated on wavelengths which would restrict the range of the system to line of sight operations, but the ad­vantage of using Shoran outweighed those of any of the long wave length systems such as Raydist and Decca.

Shoran Mapping Control

The purpose of using the Shoran equipment on these surveys is twofold. Firstly, to enable the pilot to fly the aircraft accurately along pre-selected flight lines, and secondly that the air­craft position must be known at all times so that any areas showing ab­normal radioactivity could be plotted on a map to enable follow-up ground parties to locate and investigate the areas. As there were virtually no accu­rate maps of the Northern Territory in which to plot these recorded anom­alous areas, the National Mapping Office was approached to prepare maps.

This Office was willing to undertake map production provided that the Bureau of Mineral Resources supplied the control. The existing meagre con­trol in the Northern Territory consisted of a single line of triangulation running approximately south from Darwin. This was insufficient to control maps over the areas to be flown by the aircraft, so the Bureau undertook to provide Shoran controlled aerial photographs for the purpose of laying down maps.

By basing the control runs on the same Shoran beacons as controlled the scintillometer runs, close relationship between the anomalies and the plani­metric detail would be assured.

The area required was already cov­ered by photography for mapping purposes, so it was not necessary to use the British system of fixing each ex­posure by radar. Instead, a William­son F24 vertical camera was installed in the aircraft and control runs of over­lapping F24 photos were flown. These runs were flown round the perimeter of each one mile area and north and south across the centre.

It was then a simple matter to trans­fer the principal points of these photos on to the plotting photographs to obtain control points.

When an area has been selected for airborne survey, a reconnaissance party is sent into the area to select accessible high points on which the Shoran ground beacons can be located. The mobile units carrying beacon equipment are moved on to the selected sites. Because of the limitation of line of sight operation of the Shoran equipment, the sites for the beacons are selected on the highest accessible points.

The bulk of the ground beacon equip­ment also limits the possibilities, as the sites must be accessible to the van carrying the equipment.

In this project, these two factors far outweighed other considerations. It was impossible to select the beacon sites so that good intersections could be obtained over the whole area.

Figure 5 – Instrument panel

Figure 6 – Instrument camera

Description of fixing the geographic positions of the beacons is given later.

After the positions of the beacons had been determined flight lines were laid down for the scintillometer survey and flight lines for the Shoran controlled aerial photographs for map control pur­poses were selected. It may be pointed out that in many cases the flight lines for map control were not always such as to give the best results, but the ex­pediencies of the survey necessitated that the control flight lines were flown when possible and from existing beacon set-ups.

Usually about five control lines were flown over each one mile area, three in a north-south direction and two in an east-west direction. The control flights were undertaken from an altitude of 5,000 feet, and during these flights an F24 type aerial camera was triggered to take photographs at 10 second inter­vals. The instrument camera (14 on diagram) in the aircraft was triggered simultaneously with the F24 camera and it photographed a panel of instru­ments (15 on diagram) in the aircraft including the Shoran distance indica­tors (16 on diagram). By this means the distance of the principal point of each F24 photograph from each beacon was ascertained.

The Shoran distance indicators read directly in miles to the nearest one-hundredth of a mile. These indicators are operated by electric servo-mechan­isms remote from the Shoran equipment.

The Shoran Equipment

Radar Responder System

The Shoran system is essentially a radar responder system. A transmitter (17 on diagram) carried in the aircraft transmits pulses of short duration. These pulses are received at the ground beacon, are amplified, delayed for a pre­determined short time, and made to trigger the beacon transmitter (19 on diagram). These re-transmitted pulses are picked up on the Shoran receiver in the aircraft. The time taken for the round trip of these pulses travelling at the speed of light is a measure of the distance of the airborne unit from the beacon. The measured time is con­verted automatically into a distance in the airborne unit, and shows the dis­tance of the aircraft from one beacon.

A single transmitter in the aircraft transmits pulses on two frequencies, namely, 230 and 250 mc/s. There is a switching mechanism in the airborne unit which switches the tuning on the transmitter so that it sends out a series of pulses on one of these frequencies for each alternate one-tenth of a second period, and then on the other fre­quency for the intervening periods of one-tenth of a second. The transmitter is pulsed at a repetition rate of 931 095 pulses per second (an important fig­ure) and the duration of each pulse is 0 000002 seconds. That is, for alter­nate periods of one-tenth of a second, approximately 93 pulses are transmit­ted on a frequency of 230 mc/s and are picked up by the receiver at beacon No. 1 which is tuned to receive them. On the each intervening period of one-tenth of a second duration, approximately 93 pulses are transmitted on a frequency of 250 mc/s and are picked up by the receiver at beacon No. 2, which is tuned to frequency of 250 mc/s. Both beacons re-transmit the pulses on a frequency of 300 mc/s, to which frequency the receiver in the air­craft is tuned. The pulses received by the aircraft receiver are amplified and made to appear as deflections on a cathode-ray oscillograph (23 on dia­gram). This cathode-ray oscillograph has a circular time base which is trig­gered at the same rate as the trans­mitter. That is, during the interval between outgoing pulses from the trans­mitter, the luminescent spot on the face of the cathode-ray oscillograph traces out a complete circle of about two and one-half inches diameter. A reference pulse appears as a small outward deflec­tion on the top centre (12 o'clock posi­tion) of the time base, and the pulses received from the beacons appear as deflections outward from the centre and inwards towards the centre of the circle. When the aircraft transmitter is transmitting on 230 mc/s the output of the receiver is switched, by the same switch­ing mechanism as mentioned above, so that it is coupled to the cathode-ray oscillograph such that the output of the receiver will deflect the cathode beam away from the centre of the tube, consequently the responder pulses from the beacon No. 1 will appear as short duration "pips" on the outside of the circle. And in the same way, during the next succeeding one-tenth of a second period, the output of the receiver is switched so that the pulses coming from beacon No. 2 will appear as "pips" on the inside of the circular time base.

If the marker "pip" at the top of the circle appears at the same instant as the transmitter pulse is sent out, then a measure of the distance (or time) around the circle to the responder "pips" would be a measure of the dis­tance of the aircraft from the beacons. As it is not possible to measure such distances accurately, much more elabo­rate arrangements for measuring these distances (or times) are incorporated in the equipment.

Quartz Crystal Oscillator

The accuracy of the Shoran equip­ment depends upon the ability of the system to measure small intervals of time very precisely. If the distance from the aircraft to the beacon increases by the smallest measurable distance, 0.01 miles, the travel path of the trans­mitter pulses increases by double this amount, 0.02 miles. The time taken for a radio wave travelling at a speed of 186,219 miles per second, to traverse 0.02 miles is 0.000,000,107 seconds, consequently the Shoran equipment must be capable of measuring time correct to this small interval.

The heart of the airborne measuring equipment is the time measuring device, or the quartz crystal oscillator. This operates on a frequency of 93,109.5 cycles per second, and generates a sinusoidal voltage. This alternating voltage is divided electronically in two stages to frequencies of 9,310.95 and 931.095 cycles per second respectively. After amplification, the sinusoidal volt­age of the latter frequency is squared and made to produce one electrical pulse of two microseconds duration per cycle.

This pulse is fed on to the cathode-ray oscillograph and forms the marker or reference pulse.


A portion of the 931.095 c/s sine wave voltage is passed through the goniometer where the phase of the alter­nating voltage can be changed, con­tinuously and accurately. This voltage is passed then on to a pulse forming net­work and a pulse is produced at exactly the same part of the cycle as the refer­ence or marker pulse on the un-phased alternating voltage curve. This pulse is amplified and used to trigger the transmitter. By rotating the gonio­meters (changing the phase of the alter­nating voltage) the time separation be­tween the transmitted pulse and the reference or marker pulse can be altered by very minute amounts. Sixteen revo­lutions of the goniometer shaft changes this interval by a time of 0 000,010,7 seconds, the time interval equivalent to a range of one mile.

The Shoran operator has a means of rotating the shaft of the goniometer and in doing so alters the interval of time between the transmitted and marker pulses so that this interval is exactly the same as the time required for the round trip of the transmitted pulse to the beacon, and back. If the transmitted pulse precedes the marker pulse, then the incoming signal or pulse will arrive at the same instant as the reference pulse is produced, and both pulses will appear on the same position on the cathode-ray oscillograph. The function of the Shoran operator is to turn the goniometer so as to keep the received pulses and the marker pulses aligned on the cathode-ray oscillograph. There are two goniometers in the unit, one for ranging to each beacon. The shafts of the goniometer are geared mechanically to the distance indicating dials (24 on diagram) which show the range of each beacon to the nearest 0.01 miles.

The frequency of the crystal oscil­lator, therefore, is controlled to within narrow limits.

It was stated above that the luminous spot on the cathode-ray oscillograph traced out a circle in the interval be­tween transmitted pulses. This is true when the range switch is in the "100 mile" position, i.e. when the distance around the time base represents a dis­tance of 100 miles. When the range switch is in the positions "10 mile" and "1 mile", the distances represented around the circle on the cathode-ray oscillograph are 10 miles and 1 mile respectively. The 100 mile and the 10 mile ranges are used only to enable the operator to align the pulses when first setting up. The procedure for the oper­ator is to have the range switch initially in the 100 mile position and align the received pulses, then change to the more accurate 10 mile range and align the pulses again and finally to switch to the most accurate one mile range, and keep the pulses "tracking". The assumption is made that the dis­tance of the aircraft from each beacon is known, from other sources, to the nearest 100 miles.

Figure 7 – Aircraft interior

Aided Layer Equipment

It would be arduous work for the operator to turn the goniometers con­tinuously to keep "tracking" the air­craft as the distances of the aircraft from the beacons are changing con­tinuously. For example, for an aircraft travelling at a speed of 180 miles per hour directly away from a beacon, the range from the beacon is increasing at the rate of 3 miles per minute. The goniometer "tracking" this beacon would need to be rotated at a speed of 48 revolutions per minute. To lighten the work of the operator an "aided layer" unit has been added. There are two handwheels (21 on diagram) on the front of the aided layer which are coupled through a differential gear train by an electromechanical system to the shafts of the goniometers, and the oper­ator can keep the pulses aligned on the cathode-ray oscillograph with only small movements of the handwheels.

Limitations and Source of Error

There are limitations to the accuracy of the Shoran, some of which may be solved in time. The more important of these are listed below:

(1)    The use of the equipment is re­stricted to line of sight opera­tions.

(2)    The accuracy is dependent to some extent on the size of the received pulses at the beacon and aircraft receivers. It is not possible with the present equip­ment to incorporate automatic gain control in the receivers so that pulses out of the receivers are all of the same magnitude, irrespective of strength of the received signals. This comment applies particularly to the air­borne receiver.

(3)    The speed of transmission of radio waves has been taken as constant. It is known that this varies with atmospheric conditions. If the result achieved warranted it, a check could be made of the atmospheric con­ditions, and small corrections applied to the measured dis­tances.

(4)    Errors in measured distances can be caused by operator fatigue. Errors from these sources are thought to be small. Changing of operators at short regular intervals overcomes this to a great extent.

It is intended that the above will give the broad outline of the operation of the Shoran equipment. No attempt has been made to include small but im­portant features or refinements incor­porated in the equipment. For further details consult reference 1 at end of this article.

Mapping from Shoran Controlled Photographs

Beacon Site Fix

Each beacon site position was com­puted from a series of Shoran dis­tances obtained from triangulation sta­tions as illustrated in Figure 8. Ground survey parties from the National Map­ping Office re-observed those parts of the old network which were required and established two further stations to fix these beacons sites' geographical positions.

Figure 8 – Beacon fix

The aircraft flew a pattern over trig. A, taking vertical F24 photo­graphs synchronized with the instru­ment panel camera. The distances to the principal point of each photograph were measured from both beacons. The tri­angulation stations were marked on the ground and could be identified on the photograph so that this Shoran distance could be adjusted for the distance from the triangulation point to the principal point of the photograph.

On each such flight, several (average four) triangulation points were covered from the same pair of beacons to provide a series of triangles with known sides and two positions known. From these the beacon positions could be com­puted. The flying pattern over each triangulation point was such that tilt and drift errors were minimized.

Office Computations

The information obtained from the B.M.R. field operations was collated and handed over to the N.M.O. for applica­tion. Briefly, this consisted of:

(1)    The F24 photographs and their Shoran co-ordinates for obtain­ing the position of the beacon sites.

(2)    The overlapping F24 photo­graphs for each control run.

(3)    The instrument camera films con­taining the data for each F24 photograph.

(4)    A series of log sheets on which the instrument panel data had been tabulated and correlated to the F24 photographs.

The initial requirement was a set of co-ordinates for each beacon so that the control points based on them could be computed.

For each beacon there was a series of distances to various points, these points being the principal points of vertical photographs taken over triangulation stations of known position. Each Shoran distance was adjusted to allow for the distance from the principal point of the F24 photograph to the triangulation point. All references to Shoran distances apply to the figures obtained after the height and curvature correction has been applied.

To obtain approximate positions for the beacons and thus subsequently for each individual control point, an accu­rate one inch to a mile grid was con­structed, and all triangulation points in the area were plotted. Trial co-ordin­ates for each Shoran beacon were then scaled from the intersection of the arcs of the known Shoran distances.

From these co-ordinates, bearings to each triangulation station were com­puted, thus providing a computed bear­ing and a Shoran distance from each triangulation station to the beacon position being computed. A series of posi­tions were computed from these bear­ings and distances, the co-ordinates of the beacon being obtained graphically from position lines through these com­puted points. This position is a close approximation and further computing refinements could be used if necessary.

Examination of the results shows appreciable residual errors. Of all the eleven beacons fixed in this manner, the position line which was farthest from the final adopted value for that beacon was 85 yards away. There were two of more than 70 yards, one of 60, two of 50, and so on down the scale, the best of the worst rays being only nine yards from the adopted position. A mean of the residual errors in the rays to each beacon varied between a maximum of 51 yards and a minimum of six yards.

Errors of this magnitude for the con­trol points for this type of mapping are tolerable, but for the beacon sites on which all the other controls are based, greater accuracy should be demanded.

Cross-over Checks

This term has been applied to the check made between the positions ob­tained from each run, where two or more control runs intersect. As no previous evidence was available as to the reliability of Shoran control applied in this manner, it was considered prudent to carry out these checks. The results proved them to be necessary.

Their main purpose was to check between the Shoran co-ordinates of in­tersecting runs, making a comparison between Shoran positions, and the ground positions respectively, of the principal points of several photographs from each run. Also, when the control runs were flown, some mechanical diffi­culties were encountered in the inter­valometers of the F24 and instrument cameras. This meant that although the cameras were synchronized, occasional difficulty was experienced in equating these two on the instrument panel. This relationship or equivalence could be established from the cross-over checks.

Three F24 photographs were selected from each run at the intersection, and the principal points transferred on to the K17 plotting photographs. The rela­tive ground positions of these principal points were then determined by a photoscale radial line plot.

The relative Shoran controlled posi­tions of these same points were then determined from a graphical position line plot, using trial point co-ordinates scaled from the one inch to a mile grid mentioned above.

The Shoran positions (open circles in Figure 9) were plotted at a scale of 1:31,680; and the radial line plot (posi­tions shown as filled in circles) was at a scale of approximately 1:30,300. These two plots were superimposed, the rela­tive positions shown as in Figure 9. Any errors in equivalence were immediately apparent. In Figure 9 those numbers in brackets show the positions obtained from the log sheets. The equivalence was corrected and the true position plotted as shown. Closer comparison was then made to detect any small irregularities between the intersecting runs.

In every case there were small dif­ferences in both azimuth and position. These differences were meaned out and an arbitrary position was adopted for that photograph which was to be used as a control point. From the Shoran plot the small adjustments to be made to the bearing and distance from each beacon were then scaled off.

Two sets of rectangular co-ordinates for the control point could now be ob­tained from the bearing and distances from each beacon controlling it. These two positions were plotted on a grid (usually at a scale of one inch equals ten yards) and a graphical solution obtained from position line arcs through them. The intersection of the position lines was adopted, and the rectangular co-ordinates of the control points scaled directly from the grid.

Selection of Control Points

Figure 9 – Cross-over checks

Immediately after receipt from the B.M.R., all the F24 photographs in the control runs were charted on to com­posite one mile to an inch mosaics of the area. These mosaics had previously been compiled from those K17 photo­graphs which were being used in the snap compilation.

From these mosaics, a very clear appreciation of the position was possible. Owing to the priorities placed on specific maps in the project, it was necessary to complete the areas singly and in a specified sequence. Great care had to be taken, therefore, in the selec­tion of control so that the detail would match along the edge of adjoining maps. Usually in projects of this nature, seve­ral areas are assembled at once, but the order of priorities precluded such a scheme in this instance. The only alter­native, therefore, was a high density of control, selected so that cantilevering of the slotted template assembly beyond this control was kept to an absolute minimum.

The first consideration, then, in select­ing the individual F24 photographs to be used in control was that they should be outside the edge of the area being assembled. Where the control runs were not suitably situated to satisfy this con­dition, it was generally possible to con­trol that edge by adopting a row of photo-points from a previous assembly. The next consideration was the con­dition of the template slots through the control. A well-conditioned six-ray intersection was to be aimed at in each case, and the F24 photograph most closely fulfilling this condition was adopted.

Initially, to provide a severe test on the accuracy of the control 20 points were used for each one mile area. These were evenly spaced around the peri­meter control runs and along the centre key.

Those F24 photographs to be used for control could be selected directly from the composite mosaics, where all require­ments could be considered.

No control point was computed until the equivalence for that section of the control run had been established by cross-over checks.

The computation for a control point is a simpler version of the cross-over check. In this case only the control photograph and the adjoining F24 photographs on either side are involved. The principal points of these three F24 photographs are transferred to the K17 photographs and radially plotted as before, at photo scale, to obtain the relative ground position. The relative Shoran positions are computed and plotted as before, using the Shoran co­ordinates of the control photograph to scale off a trial point. These Shoran positions were plotted at 1:31,680.

When the Shoran plots and the radial plots were compared, slight discrepan­cies were apparent each time. Arbitrary adjustments to the bearing and distances were made as in the cross-over check, and a graphical solution obtained.

Compilation of Maps

The control required for each map was completed in accordance with the priority order, each slotted template assembly being plotted as the control became available.

The maps were drawn from slotted template assemblies by the N.M.O. using the normal compilation procedure. Owing to the discrepancies between the template assembly and the computed positions of the control points, each area had to be considered individually, and those control points considered least likely to be correct were discarded.

The planimetric maps at one mile to an inch were drawn to standard mili­tary specifications, and astrafoil copies handed to the B.M.R. for the addition of their information.

Plotting of Scintillometer Results

Concurrently with the completion of the base maps by the N.M.O., the Bureau of Mineral Resources had been plotting the radioactive anomalies. To facilitate the plotting of this information, a series of Shoran lattices or grids was con­structed.

A lattice was constructed for each one mile area, and for each pair of beacons controlling the airborne scintillometer survey of that area. Each lattice con­sisted of a network of concentric arcs centred on each beacon and spaced at intervals of one-fifth of a mile.

Each flight line on the scintillometer survey was plotted on the lattice directly from the corrected Shoran co-ordinates for each exposure of the instrument camera. Reference to the scintillometer graph then enabled the radioactive anomalies to be plotted along these flight lines.

The lattices were drawn at a scale of one mile to an inch, and the radio­active anomalies could be transferred directly to the base map with the correct relation to the planimetric detail retained.

Names of the features and marginal notes were then added, and the map prepared for publication in two colours. The topographic base was printed as a ghosted grey background, with the radio­active anomalies overprinted in black.

Analysis of Results

When the cross-over checks were plotted, varying differences between the Shoran coordinates of each run were revealed. The maximum difference in position between two intersecting runs was approximately 250 yards, and the greatest difference in azimuth over the sections plotted was about 6 degrees. However, these were exceptional cases, and the average difference was approxi­mately 70 yards, and less than one degree in azimuth.

These discrepancies indicate that there are definite limitations to the use of Shoran in this manner, but with several refinements in procedure much better results can be expected.

A total of 142 control points was computed and tested by slotted template assemblies. In the early assemblies, where twenty points were used per one mile area, up to 50 per cent of the points had to be discarded. However, when the density of control was relaxed to 13 points per area, the percentage of discards was considerably reduced with­out any loss in the rigidity of the tem­plate assembly. In one assembly only one of the control points had to be discarded.

The greatest factor limiting the accuracy of the control on this project was the siting of the beacon positions. The two main factors influencing their choice have already been mentioned, namely, line of sight scintillometer re­quirements and bulk of beacon equip­ment. A large percentage of the control runs were of doubtful value as the rays from the Shoran beacons controlling them cut at too small an angle to give an accurate intersection. For accurate results, the angle of intersection should be between 30 and 150 degrees. As can readily be seen from Figure 10, only those sections of the control runs inside the circles, but not within the "lens" between the circles, will satisfy this condition. In more accessible country the beacon sites could be selected to control the area being mapped, so as to satisfy the above condition with a consequent improvement in accuracy. If necessary, additional beacon sites could be used if those for the control s are not suitable for the scintillo­meter flights. The additional effort required would be more than offset by the improved accuracy.

Figure 10 – Diagram showing “lens” of critical angle intersection

The reliability of computing the posi­tion of the Shoran beacons from Shoran distances is also open to doubt. The results obtained showed appreciable residual errors in the rays from the triangulation stations fixing the bea­cons. Errors of 30 or 40 yards in the position of a control point can be tolerated in this type of country, but the beacon sites should be fixed much more accurately than this, as all other control points depend on these values. Until such time as the reliability of the method has been proved, and also to test the method, the beacon sites should be fixed by ground survey methods.

In common with all aerial photo­graphy, the effect of tilt was an im­portant factor. At the flying height for the control runs, 5,000 feet, a tilt of three degrees displaces the principal point approximately 90 yards from the plumb point. An error of this magni­tude is excessive, and can be eliminated only by perfect flying in ideal condi­tions. No obviously tilted photograph should be used as control.

A comparison between the overlaps of the F24 photographs and the Shoran intervals between successive exposures revealed small irregularities which ma­terially affect the accuracy of control. These irregularities could be due to tilt or to the failure of the Shoran operator to keep the "pips" in coinci­dence. The task of the Shoran operator is far from easy, and even with frequent changes it becomes very fatiguing. A repeater Shoran tube on the instru­ment panel would provide a check on the operator, and any photographs where the "pips" were separated could be instantly discarded. However, seve­ral technical problems at present make this impracticable, and places all the responsibility on the operator to main­tain full efficiency.

General Summary

At this stage it is impossible to state definitely the value of Shoran for map control when applied in this way. In the project under review, too many of the deciding factors are of doubtful quality.

The direction of error in the great majority of discarded points was such that the source could be in the values computed for the beacons or the poor intersections of the rays fixing the point. Better results were obtained than could be expected with a comparable density of astronomical fixes, and of course the cost in time, manpower and money of regular ground survey meth­ods of higher accuracy would be pro­hibitive, in this type of country and for such a project as this.


"Operating and maintenance instructions for radio set AN-APN3" No. CO-AN-08-30 OAPN3-2-M. U.S. Airforce pub­lication.

Consult bibliography on page 173, "Photo­grammetric Engineering", Vol. 19, No. 1, March 1953.

By: Rimington, G. R. L., McCarthy, F. E. and Robinson, R. A.

In: Cartography (Canberra: Australian Institute  of Cartographers ), Dec. 1954, 1, 7-20.

Republished with permission – copyright applies