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Vincenty's Direct and Inverse Solution of Geodesics on the Ellipsoid - Excel VBA implementation

to calculate new coordinate based on azimuth and distance (direct)
or distance and azimuth based on two coordinates (inverse)

Algorithms by Thaddeus Vincenty (1975)
Based on the implementation in Java Script by Chris Veness
https://www.movable-type.co.uk/scripts/latlong-vincenty.html
https://github.com/chrisveness/geodesy

To make the long story short, I was looking for a way to calculate coordinates, distance and azimuth in Excel. I checked out several available solutions but they were either incomplete, did not work or results were inaccurate. That is how I ended up developing my own, complete Vincenty's Direct and Inverse formulae implementation.

Excel screenshot

How to use it?

  • Vincenty functions can be simply added to any existing Excel workbook. Download Vincenty.bas file, in Excel hit [Alt+F11] to open Visual Basic editor. Next, in the browser panel right-click on VBA Project (your file name), select Import File and choose downloaded Vincenty.bas module. Then save as 'macro-enabled workbook" and you will be able to use added functions in your Excel formulas. In a cell just start typing: =Vincenty.. and you should see the list of added functions. Do NOT simply copy-paste file text content to a new Excel module - file contains some extra lines not visible in VBA editor.
  • Functions and their parameters are listed in Excel function wizard under the Geodesic category.
  • If you prefer to use Excel Add-in instead you can simply save workbook as Add-in. Note that Add-in file must be placed in a directory registered as "Trusted Location". See Add, remove, or change a trusted location for more details. There is no IntelliSense available for VBA Add-in UDFs. Add-in, however, has one important advantage: it can be shared among many Excel workbooks, simplifying future updates.

Excel files

  • Vincenty.xlsm - Excel Macro-Enabled Demo Workbook (demo)
  • Vincenty.xls - Excel 97-2003 Demo Workbook
  • Vincenty.bas - VBA module source code - can be simply added to any existing workbook
  • PL2000.bas - VBA module source code - contains functions to translate WGS84 coordinates to/from the Polish geodetic coordinate system (PL-2000), based on the Gauss-Krüger coordinate system.

Implementation

Solution contains 6 functions implementing Vincenty's Direct and Vincenty's Inverse formulae as well as 2 functions for Decimal  Degrees/Minutes/Seconds format conversion, and uses WGS84 model.

Most function arguments and return values are 64-bit high precision. In VBA Double data type denotes 64-bit floating-point number, regardless of Excel edition (32/64 bit).

  • VincentyDirLat(lat as Double, lon as Double, azimuth as Double, distance as Double) as Variant Calculates geodesic latitude (in degrees) based on one point, bearing (in degrees) and distance (in m) using Vincenty's direct formula for ellipsoids.
  • VincentyDirLon(lat as Double, lon as Double, azimuth as Double, distance as Double) as Variant Calculates geodesic longitude (in degrees) based on one point, bearing (in degrees) and distance (in m) using Vincenty's direct formula for ellipsoids.
  • VincentyDirRevAzimuth(lat as Double, lon as Double, azimuth as Double, distance as Double, [returnAzimuth as Boolean = False]) as Variant Calculates geodesic reverse azimuth (in degrees) based on one point, bearing (in degrees) and distance (in m) using Vincenty's direct formula for ellipsoids. Note: by default azimuth from point 1 to point 2 at point 2 is returned. To obtain azimuth from point 2 to point 1 pass returnAzimuth = true.
  • VincentyInvDistance(lat1 as Double, lon1 as Double, lat2 as Double, lon2 as Double) as Variant Calculates geodesic distance (in m) between two points specified by latitude/longitude (in numeric degrees) using Vincenty's inverse formula for ellipsoids.
  • VincentyInvFwdAzimuth(lat1 as Double, lon1 as Double, lat2 as Double, lon2 as Double) as Variant Calculates geodesic azimuth (in degrees) between two points specified by latitude/longitude (in numeric degrees) using Vincenty's inverse formula for ellipsoids.
  • VincentyInvRevAzimuth(lat1 as Double, lon1 as Double, lat2 as Double, lon2 as Double, [returnAzimuth as Boolean = False]) as Variant Calculates geodesic reverse azimuth (in degrees) between two points specified by latitude/longitude (in numeric degrees) using Vincenty's inverse formula for ellipsoids. Note: by default azimuth from point 1 to point 2 at point 2 is returned. To obtain azimuth from point 2 to point 1 pass returnAzimuth = true.

Support functions

  • ConvertDegrees(decimalDeg as Double, optional isLongitude as Variant) as String Converts decimal latitude, longitude or azimuth value to degrees/minutes/seconds string format. If isLongitude value is provided output will be formatted as either longitude (true) or latitude (false).
  • ConvertDecimal(degreeDeg as String) as Variant Converts latitude, longitude or azimuth string in degrees/minutes/seconds format to decimal value. This function has been designed to parse typical formats.
  • NormalizeLat(lat as Double) as Double Normalizes latitude to -90..+90 range.
  • NormalizeLon(lon as Double) as Double Normalizes longitude to -180..+180 range.
  • NormalizeAzimuth(azimuth as Double, [positiveOnly as Boolean = False]) as Double Normalizes azimuth to 0..360 range. Note: by default input and return values have the same sign. To obtain only positive values pass positiveOnly = true.

PL-2000 translation functions

  • From2000Lat(x As Double, y As Double, meridian As Integer) As Double
    Calculates geodesic latitude (in degrees) based on PL-2000 X, Y coordinates and meridian.
  • From2000Lon(x As Double, y As Double, meridian As Integer) As Double
    Calculates geodesic longitude (in degrees) based on PL-2000 X, Y coordinates and meridian.
  • To2000X(lat As Double, lon As Double, meridian As Integer) As Double
    Calculates PL-2000 X coordinate based on geodesic latitude, longitude and target meridian.
  • To2000Y(lat As Double, lon As Double, meridian As Integer) As Double
    Calculates PL-2000 Y coordinate based on geodesic latitude, longitude and target meridian.

Source code

Excel workbooks contain unprotected source code. In addition, for better change tracking, source code has been placed separately in Vincenty.bas file. This file is all what is required to add implemented functions to any other Excel workbook.

Validation

Calculation results have been validated using 1200 test cases generated for 6 range clusters and distance between 10 m and 30,000 km against GeographicLib by Charles Karney:

and Geoscience Australia website

Validation results - maximum deviation

  GeographicLib Geoscience Australia
VincentyDirLat [degrees] 1.11E-9 3.96E-8
VincentyDirLon [degees] 6.54E-9 2.88E-7
VincentyDirRevAzimuth [degrees] 6.54E-9 5.05E-7
VincentyInvDistance [mm] 0.07240 0.53655
VincentyInvFwdAzimuth [degrees] 1.46E-6 1.46E-6
VincentyInvRevAzimuth [degrees] 1.46E-6 1.47E-6

Conclusions

  • The gathered results are surprisingly coherent with GeographicLib results and noticeably less coherent with Geoscience Australia results.
  • Direct formulae
    • Latitude differs from GeographicLib results by no more than 1.11E-9 degrees at distance greater than 20,000km. At distance shorter than 2,000km difference is less than 1.0E-10 degrees.
    • Longitude differs from GeographicLib results by no more than 6.54E-9 degrees at distance greater than 10,000km and typically does not exceed 1.0E-10 degrees at shorter distances.
    • Reverse Azimuth differs by 6.45E-9 degrees max, at distances shorter than 10,000km difference stays below 1.0E-9 degrees, most of them are below 1.0E-10 degrees.
  • Inverse formulae
    • The difference in distance calculated by GeographicLib and this Excel library does not exceed 0.07mm, which is a surprisingly good result since Vincenty's formulae is believed to be "only" 0.5mm accurate, though little is known about how this has been established and what impact floating-point arithmetic precision makes - if any.
    • Distances shorter than 3 thousand kilometers show even much higher cohesion with GeographicLib results, differences do not exceed 0.01mm.
    • Calculated azimuths results differ from GeographicLib calculated values by 1.46E-6 degrees max at short distance. At about 2.5km difference drops to 1.0E-7 degrees, 1.0E-8 degrees at 10 km and to 1.0E-9 degrees at 100km.

I was only able to compare results between Geoscience Australia, GeographicLib, which is believed to be very accurate, and this Excel library. I am not aware of substantially better references.

For complete test results refer to VincentyTest.xlsm file.

References

Feedback

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Thaddeus Vincenty's Direct and Inverse formulae for geodesic calculations in Excel (distance, azimuth, latitude, longitude).

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