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

EquipmentMeeting Changing Liquid Storage Needs
October 10, 2014
Tank and containment choices are expanding with shifts in farming practices and the economy. Read More
Precision AgGoogle Glass: New Tool For Ag
October 8, 2014
New wearable smart technologies such as Google Glass show potential to greatly impact how we accomplish the business of feeding the world. Read More
Equipment2014 Product Of The Year Voting
September 19, 2014
Many new products were introduced to the ag retail marketplace this year. From this group, CropLife IRON and its consulting partners have selected five finalists for the Product of the Year award. Please cast your vote today to help us determine the winner. Read More
Precision AgPrecision Agriculture: Finding The Payback
September 6, 2014
Profitability in precision ag is not about any one technology, but the result of employing technology in a total system approach that is agronomically sound. Read More

Trending Articles

Matt Hopkins15 Best New Agriculture Apps Worth Downloading In 2014
December 16, 2013
These latest agriculture apps are sure to help ag professionals do their jobs more efficiently in 2014 and beyond. Read More
Seed/BiotechMonsanto Offers New Support For Ferguson, Area Communities
October 8, 2014
Monsanto Co. has committed $1 million in new support for several collaborative efforts in Ferguson, MO, and surrounding communities in North St. Louis County. Read More
Seed/BiotechUnapproved Genetically Modified Wheat Found In Montana
October 3, 2014
USDA reports that one year after discovery of Monsanto's unapproved wheat in a single Oregon field disrupted U.S. wheat export sales, the GMO wheat has again been found in Montana. Read More
Equipment2014 Product Of The Year Voting
September 19, 2014
Many new products were introduced to the ag retail marketplace this year. From this group, CropLife IRON and its consulting partners have selected five finalists for the Product of the Year award. Please cast your vote today to help us determine the winner. Read More
FertilizerFall Fertility 2014: Forecasting Fertilizer Use
September 7, 2014
Great crops this year have tapped the soil, and fall work is definitely called for, but how challenging will that get? Read More
CropLife 100CHS To Build $3 Billion Fertilizer Plant In North Dakota
September 5, 2014
The fertilizer plant in Spiritwood will be the single largest investment in CHS history, as well as the single largest private investment project ever undertaken in North Dakota. Read More

Latest News

Seed/BiotechSyngenta Ranked A Top 10 Biotech Employer For Third tim…
October 20, 2014
Syngenta ranked in the top 10 among the world’s top biotech employers, according to an annual survey conducted by Science magazine. Read More
CropLife 100Wheat Growers Break Ground For New Facility At Kennebec
October 20, 2014
Wheat Growers has broke ground for a state-of-the-art shuttle loader grain handling, fertilizer and agronomy facility in Kennebec, SD. Read More
FertilizerVerdesian Life Sciences Signs Agreement With Los Alamos…
October 20, 2014
Verdesian Life Sciences has signed a licensing agreement with Los Alamos National Laboratory to develop and market LANL’s latest nitrogen enhancement technology for plants. Read More
MicronutrientsStoller Group Announces Groundbreaking At New Office Bu…
October 20, 2014
Jerry Stoller, founder and president of Stoller Group, announced the groundbreaking at the site of the company’s future headquarters in Read More
Crop InputsBioSafe Systems Opens New Production Facility In Nevada
October 20, 2014
BioSafe Systems has completed construction of a state-of-art production facility in Sparks, NV, for its line of activated peroxygen products. Read More
Crop InputsPlatform Specialty Products To Acquire Arysta LifeScien…
October 20, 2014
Once the acquisition is complete, Platform Specialty Products will combine Arysta LifeScience with previously acquired companies Agriphar and Chemtura Crop Solutions. Read More
Seed/BiotechEPA Approves Dow’s Enlist Duo Herbicide
October 15, 2014
The Enlist Weed Control System, breakthrough technology to fight resistant and tough weeds, has received the long-awaited green light from federal regulatory authorities. Read More
MicronutrientsGypsum On Farms Could Help Keep Water Clean, Not Green
October 14, 2014
Gypsum, which has roots in the past as a farm soil treatment, also may have a bright future, and not just as a booster of crops but also as a protector of water. Read More
Photo credit: The United Soybean Board/The Soybean Checkoff.
Crop InputsVerdesian Grows Sales Staff
October 14, 2014
The new account managers will drive sales growth and support relationships with key customers in the plant nutrition and seed treatment and inoculants product categories. Read More
WebinarsUpcoming Webinars
October 14, 2014
Register for one of our upcoming Webinars or access our archive of past Webinars to view recordings of presentations that may be of interest to you. Read More
CropLife 100The Andersons Purchases Six Grain Elevators, Four Agron…
October 14, 2014
The Andersons has acquired Auburn Bean and Grain of Auburn, MI, which will increase the storage capacity of its Grain Group by about 13%. Read More
StewardshipThree Ohio Ag Retailers Honored With 4R Certification
October 13, 2014
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program has announced its first three agriculture nutrient service providers to achieve certified status. Read More
Eric SfiligojEntering Agriculture’s New Phase
October 13, 2014
The market’s giddy ride the past few years might be coming to an end in 2015, warns one industry insider. Read More
Eric SfiligojWar And Green Peace
October 11, 2014
A one-time member of Green Peace recently explained why he left the organization after 15 years. Read More
StewardshipCover Crops Add To Farm Sustainability
October 10, 2014
Farmers nationwide find cover crops to be a tool that helps groundwater, prevents erosion, builds soil quality and complements existing best management practices. Read More
EquipmentMeeting Changing Liquid Storage Needs
October 10, 2014
Tank and containment choices are expanding with shifts in farming practices and the economy. Read More
StewardshipEDF Launches Initiative To Reduce Fertilizer Pollution …
October 9, 2014
The effort will engage farmers and businesses throughout the supply chain to transform the way fertilizer-dependent grain crops are grown and sourced. Read More
ManagementMACA 2014: The State Of The Agricultural Industry, And …
October 9, 2014
The trade association’s annual gathering featured speakers from across agriculture and beyond. Read More