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 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

EquipmentAGCO Announces Finalists For Operator Of The Year Honor
November 19, 2015
AGCO Corp. has announced the four top operators chosen as finalists for AGCO’s 10th Annual Operator of the Year program, Read More
Tiger Sul Crop Nutrient Calculator
FertilizerH.J. Baker Launches New Nutrient Calculator App
November 12, 2015
H.J. Baker, a global agriculture firm, has launched a new agronomic nutrient calculator app. This innovative and powerful tool will Read More
Yargus Layco 16 Ton Rotary Drum
Blenders15 Fertilizer Blenders That Will Meet Your 2016 Mixing Needs
November 11, 2015
Manufacturers of fertilizer blending and mixing systems continue to develop some of the fastest, most durable, most accurate units ever for Read More
Precision AgXS Inc. Expanding Ag Retail Reach With AgVeritas
November 5, 2015
AgVeritas, the patented cloud-based yield analysis application launched by XS Inc for the 2015 season, is making a significant impact Read More
Top 100 Articles
CropLife 100CHS, MKC Consider Second Grain Terminal In Milan, KS
November 30, 2015
CHS Inc., an energy, grains and food company and the nation’s leading farmer-owned cooperative, and MKC, a full-service farm cooperative Read More
CropLife 100United Cooperative Acquires Four ADM Wisconsin Facilities
November 12, 2015
United Cooperative, based out of Beaver Dam, WI, recently acquired four grain and agronomy locations from Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT Car Makes NASCAR Xfinity Series
October 29, 2015
BRANDT will join JR Motorsports with driver, Justin Allgaier, for the 2016 NASCAR Xfinity (NXS) Series season. Allgaier will pilot Read More
CHS Building exterior
CropLife 100CHS Leaders Help Shape Succession Report
October 22, 2015
Succession planning was listed as a main concern of cooperative leaders at this summer’s 15 regional CHS owner town hall Read More
Fall Harvest
CropLife 100Pinnacle Purchases Eight Regional Seed Companies
October 12, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings has announced the purchase of eight regional seed companies to advance its seed business. Pinnacle has acquired: Read More
MRM Agricultural Service
CropLife 100Pinnacle Acquires CropLife 100 Ag Retailer
October 8, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings, LLC has successfully acquired the Missouri-based agronomy business of MRM Agricultural Service, LLC and its affiliates (MRM). Operating Read More
Latest News
CropLife 100CHS, MKC Consider Second Grain Terminal In Milan, KS
November 30, 2015
CHS Inc., an energy, grains and food company and the nation’s leading farmer-owned cooperative, and MKC, a full-service farm cooperative Read More
Dow AgroSciences Logo wall
HerbicidesGowan Co. To Acquire DNA Herbicides From Dow AgroScienc…
November 30, 2015
Gowan Co. has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire the entire global dinitroaniline (DNA) herbicide portfolio from Dow AgroSciences Read More
Palmer pigweed in soybean stubble
Herbicides‘Back to the Future’ Weed Control: Herbicide Outlook 20…
November 30, 2015
What’s new for herbicides in 2016? Well, not much, but the learning process is sure to continue for fine-tuning resistance Read More
Tim Hassinger Dow AgroSciences President and CEO
HerbicidesDow Expects Enlist Duo To Be Available For The 2016 U.S…
November 30, 2015
Relative to EPA’s recently filed motion to vacate the registration of Enlist Duo herbicide, The Dow Chemical Co. is confident Read More
HerbicidesBREAKING: EPA Pulls Registration On Dow’s Enlist …
November 25, 2015
EPA on Wednesday withdrew approval of a controversial new weed killer to be used on genetically modified corn and soybeans, Read More
FertilizerYara Tampa Ammonia Terminal Garners ResponsibleAg Honor…
November 25, 2015
Yara has received its first ResponsibleAg Certification for its Tampa, FL, Ammonia terminal location. This achievement demonstrates Yara’s commitment to Read More
ManagementReviewing The Top Ag Stories For 2015
November 24, 2015
Editors Eric Sfiligoj and Paul Schrimpf discuss the most noteworthy events from this past year in agriculture. Read More
EmployeesAgriculture Jobs May Be Plentiful, But New Grads Are Sc…
November 24, 2015
Close to 60,000 jobs are set to open up in agriculture each year for the next five years, but there's not enough grads to fill them. Read More
Radish cover crop
StewardshipCover Crops Guide Helps Growers Improve Water Quality
November 23, 2015
A publication that teaches growers the advantages of using cover crops to improve soil health and crop yields has won Read More
Crop InputsThe Andersons’ Products Receive California Organi…
November 23, 2015
The Plant Nutrient Group of The Andersons, Inc. announced today that its Humic DG and Black Gypsum DG products are Read More
Eric SfiligojNew European Study Seems To Support Glyphosate Safety
November 23, 2015
Looking at any international news over the past few years, it might seem as if the European Union (EU) is Read More
Toggle Biostimulant corn roots
Crop InputsTwo New Biostimulants Added To United Suppliers’ …
November 20, 2015
Winfield US announces the launch of two new products in the United Suppliers portfolio for the 2016 crop season, Optify Read More
StewardshipNRDC Report: Cover Crops Contain Vast Benefits
November 19, 2015
As harvest season ends and farmers in the United States ready themselves for winter, one small change could make a Read More
Fall Harvest
Seed/BiotechArysta Launches New Seed Protectant
November 19, 2015
As spring wheat growers begin planning for a strong start to their season, Arysta LifeScience North America announces RANCONA V Read More
Crop InputsInocucor Receives U.S. Patent For Microbials
November 19, 2015
Inocucor Technologies Inc., the Montreal-based agriculture biotech company, was issued patent No. 9,175,258 by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to protect Read More
ManagementSyngenta Rumors and ARA 2015 Preview
November 19, 2015
CropLife Editor Eric Sfiligoj looks at the latest rumors involving Syngenta selling its crop protection business and talks about events Read More
EquipmentAGCO Announces Finalists For Operator Of The Year Honor
November 19, 2015
AGCO Corp. has announced the four top operators chosen as finalists for AGCO’s 10th Annual Operator of the Year program, Read More
High Plains Aquifer
StewardshipStudy: High Plains Aquifer Overall Usage In Decline
November 18, 2015
A new Kansas State University study finds that the over-tapping of the High Plains Aquifer’s groundwater beyond the aquifer’s recharge Read More