Bringing Wireless To Indiana

When Raven announced its Slingshot solution for delivering cell-based RTK GPS and wireless data transfer late last year, it was understood that 2010 would be the year that its dealers would be ramping up to get ready for full implementation in 2011. Equipment Technologies (ET), a large Raven dealer based in Mooresville, IN, and manufacturer of the Apache line of sprayers, is on the downhill side of just such an implementation.

Rob Shellhamer, formerly a precision ag specialist with Raven, was brought on board earlier this year to coordinate the project and has made tremendous progress in setting up the system. ET’s goal is to have the entire state of Indiana covered under Slingshot, and as of early August only a couple of base station installations remained.

While there have been many details to attend to through the setup process, Raven built the Slingshot system to be a relatively straightforward implementation for its dealers. The system requires the establishment of a set of strategically placed base stations that broadcast the signal, and Shellhamer spent a lot of time nailing down these locations and penning agreements with businesses to install the stations – mostly ag retailers and equipment dealers.

As the system comes fully on line and gets tested, the next hurdle will be getting growers and agribusinesses to sign up for the service. “This summer has been all about getting the system up and going,” says Shellhamer. “Now we’re beginning to promote it for the 2011 season through field days and farm shows.”

The system is already compatible with Raven’s Viper Pro and Envizio Pro controllers, as well Trimble’s EZ Guide 500 and FmX and AutoFarm’s ParaDyme, so end-users operating with these products will be able to utilize the Slingshot system with more existing equipment and a lower additional investment. There will be a subscription cost to access Slingshot of $1500 per year for the first system and $750 for each additional system.

When the system is fully implemented throughout the state and all the base stations are networked, users of the Slingshot system will have access to RTK-level GPS correction (sub-inch repeatable) that is serviced by Raven, but is also compatible with CORS-based signals.

Slingshot also offers in-cab wireless Internet access, allowing operators the ability to simply browse or to use the Internet platform to transfer files. A Raven-operated Web site facilitates data transfer. Users also can get help with equipment problems from Raven or ET technicians remotely in the field – technicians can use the Slingshot system and a system generated code to actually go directly into the controller, look at the system and troubleshoot the problem. The system also provides vehicle tracking capability that users can access through the Slingshot website.

The one downside of Slingshot is that it’s not able to work with every color and brand of equipment, at least not yet. But Shellhamer says that compatibility is being broadened as rapidly as possible to accommodate whatever equipment the end-user is running.

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