If you are not currently using GPS (Global Positioning System, the US satellite system) technology, you should take a moment and reconsider. Faster results, increased productivity, and improved accuracy are all benefits you may be leaving on the table.
GPS is now a well-established tool in use all over the world. There are two major systems in play today: the US GPS and Russian GLONASS; and several more are coming online soon, including the Chinese Beidou, European Galileo, and systems from India and Japan. While GPS has come to refer to all these systems, for convenience and clarity, they are collectively referred to as GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite Systems). Beyond the GPS you know in your car or phone, GNSS is providing positioning data that are unmatched for their accuracy and reliability, and here’s how.
- Save time and money. GPS data can be gathered at a rate that makes conventional data collection seem antiquated. As fast as the operator can walk, pause, press a key to record, and then move along, data can be collected. No more waiting for the instrument operator to find the prism, dial precisely, take the measurement, receive the information from the rodman on coding, and signal the rodman to move on to the next point. This high rate of data collection is achieved with one less employee, further reducing costs.
- Increased productivity. Many of us remember running traverses for the first few days of a survey. With GPS, those days are a memory. Conventional methods required traveling in short leaps, limited by line-of-sight and magnification, while GPS is limited by radio signal strength and computational rigor. Since GPS does not rely on interconnected, intervisible stations painstakingly observed by highly trained crews, less trained operators can establish high precision control over vast areas with relative ease by observing remote stations for shorter periods.
- Improved accuracy. The data collection process is further enhanced by the process by which observations are made. In conventional surveying, a single error can result in the loss of a day’s work. One bad back sight, or slipped lower motion, can provide seemingly endless amounts of strife while the cause is rooted out, if it is discovered at all. GPS observations are made over time, from a continuous flow of data, and errors in one observation, do not carry over into the rest. With a bad initialization rate of 1 in 10,000, and advanced computing filters, errors are generally confined to human errors and rare “bad shots,” both of which can be mitigated by simple field methods.
In today’s workplace, ignoring an established technology that provides labor cost savings, an increase in production rate, inherent accuracy that far surpasses conventional methods, and is usable by operators with significantly less training is simply poor business. The old adage that, “you can have your choice of fast, accurate, and cheap, but you can only have two” is fading into the past. It is time to take a closer look at what you are missing.