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Thursday, December 20, 2012

GPS Field Equipment

Since starting to work as a consultant it has become imperative that we have GPS equipment to keep track of where we are and to map sampling zones or in rare cases points.  The equipment has gotten better over the years. I will attempt to provide a brief review of each.  All of the equipment uses a Rammount setup for mounting tot he ATV. 
This is what was being used in 2005 when I started.
Hardware - IPAC
Receiver - NAVMAN sleeve or external plug in
Software - Farmworks Mobile
Reliability -  Fair
Durability - Fair
Ease of use - OK
Outdoor visibility - Fair
Accuracy - WAAS
Battery Life - 6 hours
Map Capacity - We had room for all maps on this.
Data Conversion required - None - Records Proprietary data but can be set to exported to shape files.
Comments:  This got us started, but it lost maps when recording.  It would would blink a lot.  I will never use this again. Cost was around $1200.  Plus Mount


I bought this in 2007 in search of less expensive equipment.
Hardware - Garmin 76
Receiver - Built in
Software - DNR Garmin to transfer and convert files to shape files.
Reliability -  Excellent
Durability - Not ruggedized but seems to be built to handle vibration. 
Ease of use - Good for what it is, but limited versatility. 
Outdoor visibility  - Excellent
Accuracy - WAAS
Battery life - 8 to 10 hours.  Uses AA rechargeables or alkaline. 
Map Capacity - Can load about 3000 acres of zone maps.  Has a memory card, but only uses Garmin Maps on the card.
Data Conversion required - DNR Garmin works well within capacity limits.
Comments:  I am still using this as a sampling tool.  I also like it for recording point data in septic tank evaluations.  It will record tracks, but if you start off with tracks already loaded you need to know that everything downloads back to desktop, so I do not use it for sampling and data collection at the same time.  Cost was around $350.   

I bought this in 2008 to replace IPAC
Hardware - Archer Juniper
Receiver - Have used Wintec G-Rays 1  Wintec G-Rays- 2 and Garmin 10
Software - Farmworks Mobile
Reliability - OK
Durability - Fair -- Ruggedized and handles vibration well.  We have had touchscreen issues related to dust and dirt. 
Ease of use - Good for mapping and Sampling
Outdoor visibility  - Fair
Accuracy - WAAS
Battery life - 6 hours. 
Map Capacity - Can load all of our maps and has a memory card.
Data Conversion required -None - Records Proprietary data but can be set to exported to shape files.
Comments:  I am still using this as a mapping tool.  It records polygons, lines, and points.  I don't want to tax this unit so seldom use for sampling.   Cost was around $1700 Plus Mount
I bought this in 2012. 
Hardware - Droid 2 smartphone
Receiver - Built in
Software - Locus Free App
Reliability - OK
Durability - Seems OK.
Ease of use - OK for sampling
Outdoor visibility  - Fair
Accuracy - Seems OK.
Battery life - 2 hours with GPS on.
Map Capacity - Can load all of our maps and has a memory card.
Data Conversion required - Required GPX format.  Need to convert polygons to lines and then export to GPX.  When you turn on a customer's file, you need to check box for each line or remember to use the check all box. 
Comments:  This a backup system for sampling only.  Won't use it unless nothing else works.  It is supposed to have mapping capabilities, but I have not tested it. $50 Plus mount
I bought this in November in order to assist customers who want to use one.
Hardware - IPAD2 WiFi
Receiver - Garmin GLO for IOS
Software - GISRoam - Also want to try iCMTgis ii. 
Reliability - Not tested enough
Durability - Good Otterbox Defender seems very tough
Ease of use - Seems OK for Sampling.  Not tested for mapping
Outdoor visibility  - Excellent
Accuracy - Seems to be WAAS equivalent.
Battery life -  8 to 10 hours. 
Map Capacity - Can load all of our maps.
Data Conversion required - Need to download Data Connect to transfer and convert files with GIS Roam.
Comments:Will use as a sampling tool for sure.  It is supposed to be good for mapping, but have not tested.  I would recommended getting a better IPAD than I got.  Need one with a cell card to insure internal GPS works.  I think the idea of using an off the shelf tablet is excellent and cost is reasonable compared to some of this stuff.    Under $600 including Mount. 

This was bought used.
Hardware - Panasonic Toughbook
Receiver - Have used Wintec G-Rays 1  Wintec G-Rays- 2 and Garmin 10
Software - Global Mapper (Windows NT) 
Reliability - Good
Durability - Ruggedized and handles vibration well. 
Ease of use - Good for mapping and Sampling
Outdoor visibility  - Good when set to black lines with white background
Accuracy - WAAS
Battery life - 3.5 hours, but it can be set to go to standby after 3 to 5 minutes.  If left off a couple of minutes when on standby, I can make the battery last 6 or 7 hours.  
Map Capacity - Can load all of our maps.
Data Conversion required -None - It records polygons, lines, and points.  I can finish maps in the field.   Finish works best when sitting in the truck.  I like this setup, but it is heavy.  I also have reports and Aerials loaded so it is pretty much anything I might need.  Cost about $2000 used.  Over $4000 new plus software. 


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