GPS: 25 Years And Still Growing

The first GPS receiver station developed by Rockwell Collins in 1976. (Photo Credit: Rockwell Collins)
The first GPS receiver station developed by Rockwell Collins in 1976. (Photo Credit: Rockwell Collins)

This past month saw the U.S.-launched global positioning system (GPS) satellite constellation hit its quarter-century mark in lifespan. From now-ubiquitous consumer devices such as smartphones and tablets to highly precise commercial grade guidance systems for precision farming as well as many other industries, GPS adoption has increased exponentially — while the technology itself was quite literally shrinking (see above photo of first GPS receiver) — and it will be interesting to see what the next 25 years brings.

“Moving forward, with the adoption of variable-rate technologies and other precision technology that requires higher accuracy positioning, we see customers wanting broader access to higher accuracy GPS corrections,” said Ryan Molitor, operations manager at Raven Industries, in a recent PrecisionAg.com piece on the 25-year anniversary. “You will also see larger RTK networks with easier access for end user customers.”

Opening Up Access

One company intent on delivering broad access to GPS corrections is Novariant, Inc., via its SimpleSteer tablet-based autosteer software, which garnered a 2014 ASABE (American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers) AE 50 Outstanding Innovations Award in February.

Marketed in Australia under the AutoFarm brand (as well as throughout Europe and China) and with tentative designs on a future North American release, it’s important to note that SimpleSteer is not a traditional mobile app in the sense that it is run by launching the tablet’s Web browser. According to Giri Baleri, director of product marketing, Novariant, this is to remove any dependence on consumer-grade GNSS/GPS from the tablet, which is not accurate enough for precision agriculture applications.

“As long as you have an Internet browser, it doesn’t matter if your tablet is iPad or Android, it could be any tablet really,” says Baleri. “And the tablet doesn’t have to have GPS capabilities built-in, as long as it has a wireless Internet connection our software can run RTK, WAAS and even OmniStar corrections. It is truly a unique and revolutionary system.”

Baleri says the systems’ simplicity and intuitive design, affordability — as well as the flexibility of being able to swap tablets from cab to cab in mere seconds — are just a few of the benefits end users enjoy.

“The guys that like this product are the ones looking for a simple ‘from A-to-B’ steering solution,” says Baleri. “If you’re looking for one of those fancy ag-centric displays with all of the bells and whistles like yield monitoring, this product is probably not for you. But the guy that doesn’t want to pay all of that money for a system that he may only use about 20% of its capabilities anyways, it’s a great option to have.”

The Topcon family of positioning products for precision ag.
The Topcon family of positioning products.

Topcon Precision Agriculture, meanwhile, is still hawking its modular AGI-4 receiver for corrections, according to Mike Gomes, vice president business development. “AGI-4 is very popular in the marketplace thanks in no small part to its modular design approach,” says Gomes. “This modularity gives the AGI-4 the ability to add higher end inertials (gyros and accelerometers) for improved performance and repeatability. It also allows the addition of an RTK modem, whether that be to a local RTK base or a network of RTK bases.”

Harlan Little, Topcon product planning manager-agricultural applications, says compatibility across a wide range of equipment continues to be a focus. “Topcon has been very committed to having strong performance and compatibility amongst many components, not just displays,” he says. “We are also in the process of certification of our Universal Terminal functionality with the AEF (Ag Electronics Foundation) that specifically uses third parties to test and certify that compatibility. Topcon strives to be ‘easy-to-use’ whether it is utilizing ISO compatibility or the Topcon ‘look and feel.’

Going forward, Little believes that rather than separate displays for each specific function, operators are going to require more “All-in-One” functionality, like that of the X30 and other Topcon displays, as well as integrated functions at lower costs.

“Plus, Topcon continues to expand its TopNET Reference Station offering, allowing for a much larger footprint of Internet connected GPS correction options into global agricultural areas,” adds Gomes.

Ag Leader Technologies’ GeoSteer system is now at Version 5.2 following a February update release, says Jeff Dickens, product specialist. “This update provides growers with a variety of user interface and home screen improvements, as well as new functionality, including the ability to create more complex pattern groups, one-touch active pattern toggle and concurrent display of all guidance patterns stored onboard and sorted by distance from the current GPS location.”

According to Dickens (and many others), overall efficiency continues to be the largest driver in GPS guidance adoption. “The single largest driver of adoption (in agriculture) is efficiency. With a GPS autosteer system, professional applicators are able to apply product with less overlap and skips, making them more efficient in, but not limited to, fuel efficiency, cost per acre and acres covered per day. A side benefit they see is less driver fatigue, as well.”

Topcon’s Little seconds that notion. “Custom applicators are quickly adopting autosteering and section control usage because it reduces the stress of long hours while performing at a consistently high level. They can be more relaxed during the day (or night), while still delivering a quality job to customers,” he says.

Leave a Reply

Equipment Stories

A finished Willmar 16-ton side-shooting tender.
TendersNew Production Facility Helps Willmar
July 17, 2014
In 1963, a group of businessmen started Willmar. Today, a half-century later, the company is one of the ag industry’s longest-running brands. Read More
SprayersHooded Sprayers Help Minimize Spray Drift
May 15, 2014
Willmar Fabrica­tion's hooded sprayers have the potential to minimize pesticide drift, especially when combined with other drift reduction technologies, such as drift retardant adjuvants or low-drift nozzles. Read More
Nozzles18 Spray Nozzles That Reduce Drift, Optimize Coverage
May 7, 2014
This year’s line-up of tips feature the versatility to handle any spray job. View photos and product descriptions of the latest nozzles on the market in our slideshow. Read More
NozzlesChanging Crop Protection Landscape Demands Drift Advances
May 1, 2014
New weed control systems and growing public pressure mean technologies to minimize drift can’t come fast enough. Read More

Trending Articles

Green Valley Ag facility
Retail FacilitiesGreen Valley Ag Adopts A.J. Sackett’s Precision Fertilizer Blending® Technology At New Facility
July 8, 2014
Sackett's Precision Fertilizer Blending® Technology is making huge strides around the world. Green Valley Ag adopts the technology at its new facility to support its advancing agronomic needs. Read More
Retail FacilitiesWaconia Manufacturing Builds Facility Designed For Speed, Efficiency
July 7, 2014
To make its new hub facility more efficient, Cooperative Elevator enlisted the aid of Waconia Manufacturing. Read More
EquipmentSummer Show Preview 2014: Superior Sprayers Take The Field
July 3, 2014
In this final installment of our coverage of the major categories of Big IRON that retailers can expect to test-drive at this summer’s events, here is a look at 19 sprayers. Read More
Scouting a soybean patch at Green Valley Ag.
EmployeesCropLife Compensation Survey: Battling Talent Drain
July 2, 2014
Retailers too often lose employees to companies outside of agriculture, while recruiting efforts are most often limited to competitors and other ag-focused organizations. Read More
HerbicidesDow AgroSciences Introduces SureStart II Herbicide
June 16, 2014
The enhanced formulation has improved viscosity and increased stability under heat and controls more than 60 high-anxiety grasses and broadleaf weeds found in corn fields. Read More
HerbicidesBASF Investing $270 Million To Expand U.S. Herbicide Production
June 11, 2014
BASF has invested more than $270 million to expand herbicide production capacities in the U.S., including more than 20 new products to be launched over next two years. Read More

Latest News

HerbicidesWillowood To Market Glufosinate
July 28, 2014
Willowood USA recently announced that Federal EPA has approved its technical registration for glufosinate. Read More
InsecticidesHow To Scout For Corn Earworms In Corn
July 28, 2014
In her weekly report, University of Missouri Agronomy Specialist Jill Scheidt discusses what to look for when scouting for corn earworm. Read More
Crop InputsDuPont Pioneer, Weyerhaeuser Enter Technology License A…
July 28, 2014
The agreement brings together agricultural and forestry know-how to sustainably improve crop productivity for corn growers around the world. Read More
EquipmentAGCO Launches Global iPad App
July 28, 2014
The free AGCO Global iPad App can be downloaded from the Apple iTunes Store and features the full family of RoGator self-propelled sprayers and TerraGator high-floatation spreaders. Read More
Eric SfiligojYuma Centennial Ag Supply Earns 2014 National Environme…
July 28, 2014
Colorado-based ag retailer receives top trophy in 24th annual DuPont Crop Protection/CropLife ceremony. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Forms Alliance With Wildlife Managment, Seed O…
July 25, 2014
The strategic alliance will provide Tecomate with key wildlife products, processing facilities, distribution centers and sales through Pinnacle’s ever-growing retail network. Read More
ManagementFranken Presses White House On RFS Support
July 25, 2014
Al Franken and a group of Senate democrats recently met with senior White House official John Podesta to urge the administration to change its position on an EPA proposal. Read More
ManagementASA, FarmLink To Launch ‘Operation Benchmark̵…
July 25, 2014
The American Soybean Association (ASA) and FarmLink are teaming up to help farmers close the $11 billion gap between what they harvested in 2013 and what they could harvest annually. Read More
StewardshipNorthey: Farmers Commit $1.4 Million to Try New Water Q…
July 25, 2014
The practices that are eligible for funding include cover crops, no-till or strip till and using a nitrification inhibitor when applying fall fertilizer. Read More
Precision AgFarmers Learn How Changing World Will Impact Iowa
July 24, 2014
Technology and understanding global consumer demand for Iowa farm products brought hundreds of farmers and agribusiness leaders to Ames recently for the annual Iowa Farm Bureau Federation Economic Summit. Read More
HerbicidesPurdue: Late Season Weeds May Require Manual Removal
July 24, 2014
Hand-rouging and pulling late season weeds by hand may be the best way to remove them, more so than using a herbicide, a Purdue Extension weed scientist says. Read More
Soybean Field
InsecticidesTransform WG, Closer SC Insecticides Receive R&D 10…
July 23, 2014
Dow AgroSciences has received the award from R&D Magazine for Transform WG insecticide and Closer SC insecticide with Isoclast active. Read More
EquipmentKinze, Raven Team Up On 4900 Planter Monitor
July 23, 2014
Kinze Manufacturing announces a partnership with Raven Industries to develop a standalone monitor solution for the Kinze 4900 series planter. With this new Read More
LegislationNew Farm Bill Continues To Confuse As Growers Await USD…
July 23, 2014
The new five-year Farm Bill eliminates many of the direct payments previously payed to growers and could benefit from USDA clarification, reports a Toledo Blade columnist. Read More
EquipmentPrecisionAg.com Relaunches With Responsive Design For M…
July 22, 2014
PrecisionAg, the worldwide leader in precision agriculture information and analysis, announces the launch of its completely redesigned website, PrecisionAg.com. Read More
FungicidesEPA OKs Two Willowood Fungicides
July 21, 2014
The EPA has approved Willowood Azoxy 2SC and Willowood AzoxyProp Xtra. two widely used broad spectrum, preventative fungicides with systemic and curative properties. Read More
Precision AgFarmers Learning Fast As UAVs Take Off
July 17, 2014
Farmers and others interested in how UAVs can be used in agricultural applications were able to learn more about the technology during the recent Precision Aerial Ag Show. Read More
CropLife 100Bobby Knight, Richard Petty To Highlight Ag PhD Field D…
July 17, 2014
Attendees at the July 24 Ag PhD Field Day at Hefty Farms will learn about the latest agricultural technologies, and get a chance to meet legendary sports figures Bobby Knight and Richard Petty. Read More