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5 Reasons to Buy New RTK Equipment

If you are asking whether it is time to upgrade your RTK equipment, there are several reasons to consider doing it now. A new system can offer a range of benefits including; improved efficiency, offer better accuracy in difficult environments, more robust communication options, increased durability, an extended warranty, and a chance to streamline your workflows. These advantages can have a significant impact on your business, particularly if you are a first time RTK user, or are looking to upgrade your current equipment. In this article we’ll explore how each of these reasons in detail and show you how new RTK can transform the way you work.

  1. Improving Efficiency
  2. Better Reliability and Accuracy
  3. Improved Communication Options
  4. Durability and Warranty
  5. Improved Workflows

1. Improving Efficiency

If you have been holding off on purchasing an RTK system, now is the ideal time to consider making the investment. Never has the technology been better and at a more affordable price. The latest 7th generation technology offers a significant step forward and GNSS equipment has finally reached a point where traditional total stations can almost be completely replaced. In the next section we will go over in what ways the technology has improved but the ability to eliminate total stations offers you the chance to save on man power, and time.

With an RTK system, you get longer baselines and it is all operable by one operator. What this means in practice, is that when previously you needed multiple setups to cover an entire site, can often be done with one setup with an RTK system. The ability to place your base, and not have to have line of sight to all points on a project means that you can complete a job in record time. Check out the video in the communication section to see what you can expect.  

For those of you that already have an RTK system, but are on older 4th or 5th generation RTK (like the Hemisphere S320, S321 and S321+ or another manufacturer like Sokkia’s GRX2 or GRX3), it may be the perfect time to get into 7th generation technology. With the introduction of the 7th generation, manufacturers have finally produced a viable IMU (inertial measurement units) that allow for the recording of points, even when the pole is tilted.

What this means in the field is that you don’t have to take the time to level the pole. For some of you that may take only a second or two, but that can quickly add up over the course of a project. With the tilt sensor, you can complete stakeout in 30% of the time and layout in 50% of the time. This can add up to huge time savings on site. With the Hemisphere S631 we put the tilt sensor to the test to see what kind of results we could get. Check out the video below for an idea of what we can achieve.

Better Accuracy and Reliability

For a long time, the limiting factor in RTK surveying was the ability to take the receivers into difficult multi-path environments. Areas under trees, or right up against buildings have long been untouchable with RTK systems. Check out this article on everything that goes into calculating an RTK position, Read More. With the introduction of 7th generation RTK technology, like that found in the Hemisphere S631, you can know take your GNS receivers into those environments.

Earlier RTK receivers were often limited to multi-frequency functionality on only one or two constellations. However, the latest generation of RTK receivers is equipped with multi-frequency capability across all available constellations. What this means for the surveyor in the field, is that the receivers have access to the latest signals, which are more powerful, and come with multi-path mitigating messages. This gives the receiver the best possible chance to obtain a fixed solution under canopy.

However, not all 7th generation receivers were created equal. Just because a manufacturer has the ability to see all available signals does not mean that it will be able to perform under canopy. A receiver is only as good as the RTK engine that powers it. That is why, even though the Hemisphere S631 can see the same signals as units like the Sokkia GRX3, Topcon Hiper V and Leica GS18 none of these receivers can perform as well under canopy as the Hemisphere S631.

The Hemisphere S631 outperforms these units, as the RTK engine does a better job modeling the ionosphere, which can deflect signals, and a better job filtering out multi-path signals. The better a receiver can perform this task, the better it will perform under canopy and near buildings. Check out our videos below on how this can make a difference.

Flexible Communication Options

In today’s world flexibility is king. You need to be able to change gears on the fly and customize your solutions to make sure that all of your customers needs are met. That is why it is important why your receiver has to keep up with you and adapt to the situation you are in. With the Hemisphere S631, you get a receiver that is capable of wearing multiple different hats to meet your needs.

With a receiver like the Hemisphere S631 you can run the unit as an NTRIP Rover, NTRIP Base, UHF Rover, UHF Base, Static, PPK and more. Unlike other manufacturers, Hemisphere does not lock options behind a paywall, everything is available out of the box.

With the ability to send and receive NTRIP corrections, you have the ability to connect to local state CORS networks, private networks or your own network. This gives you the flexibility to setup using a service like StormCaster and run a point to point NTRIP solution or to use a VRS service like CANNET or Trimble’s VRS service. So, in areas where you don’t have the ability to setup your base safely, or simply don’t have the time you can connect to a network to get your surveying done.  

In areas where cell coverage is limited, or you don’t want to have to deal with a cellular provider, the UHF radios are the perfect solution. The UHF radios allow for a subscription free, solution that allow you to work where ever. With the internal 1 Watt Satel radios, you can achieve ranges of up to 10 km/6.5 miles. In town where trees, buildings and line of sight issues can affect radio performance, you can still achieve ranges upwards of 5 km / 3 miles.

Finally, if you are looking to set control or perform PPK measurements, the S631 can record static data. This data is easy to collect and can quickly be processed into whatever software package you use. Furthermore, with the S631 you can route data directly into drone software, to drones and more.

Durability and Warranty

One of the forgotten aspects of surveying that not many people like to mention is the propensity for accidents to occur. Things happen while surveying, and equipment can take a fall. The older your equipment becomes, the more difficult it is to get serviced and find parts for. And sometimes, it is not even your fault, but the fault of someone else.

Several weeks ago, we had a customer who had a base station struck by a golf cart (I personally have many questions I would like to ask the driver of the golf cart), fortunately as the unit was relatively new parts were not difficult to find to fix the units to make it look like new.

If you are a total station user, and have never ventured into the GNSS side of surveying, one question we get a lot is whether or not a GNSS receiver must be calibrated after a drop or impact. The answer is no. A total station must be calibrated to ensure that the optical parts of the instrument are still properly aligned. A GNSS receiver does not have any optical components, and the manner in which you calibrate in the field, corrects for any biases found on a particular receiver. For more information on field calibrations check out our video on localizations.

The last question in terms of durability has nothing to do with the build quality of the receiver itself, but rather the warranty that comes with the receiver. As I mentioned earlier, as equipment gets older, parts begin to break, and unforeseen design faults may come to life. For example, if any of you are familiar with the Hemisphere S320 / Carlson BRx5, you will know that the power button on those units will begin to break down over time, eventually rendering the button useless. The BRx5 has long been discontinued, and we only very recently ran out of top enclosure replacements. Although we have designed a fix for the button, that can extend the lifetime of the receiver, this is not always the case for other equipment. With a new receiver, if any of those faults ever come to light, you have the warranty of the receiver available to cover any repairs.

Improved Workflows

One of the hardest things to do when looking at purchasing new equipment is accepting that the workflows you have designed and become accustomed to may have to change. However, this is not always a bad thing. With the introduction of new equipment, you can redesign your workflows to take advantage of the latest technology. It is however a daunting process when this has to be done.

Here at Bench-Mark, we ensure that all of the equipment we sell is backed by our support. In order to help you adapt our equipment into your workflows and ensure that all of your requirements are met, we offer live zoom training, over 50 cheat sheet guides and over 250 training videos and counting. It is important that when looking to purchase RTK equipment, you ensure that you have the support to back up that equipment.

When upgrading equipment, it might also be the perfect time to try something new. There are a host of different software solutions out there. Here at Bench-Mark we prefer MicroSurvey’s FieldGenius for a number of reasons. Chief among them is how easy it is too pickup FieldGenius compared to other software packages. Everything is readily available from the map screen and easy to find.

Is it the Right Time To Buy

There is a lot of different factors to consider when buying new RTK equipment. Is this what your business needs? Can I make the pricing work? What kind of work will I have for this equipment? All of these questions can be difficult to navigate on their own. If you have any questions about anything in this article, or anything you have seen in the surveying space, give us a ring. One of here at Bench-Mark can answer your questions and ensure that we find the right equipment to meet your needs.

Bench Mark Equipment & Supplies is your team to trust with all your surveying equipment. We have been providing high-quality surveying equipment to land surveyors, engineers, construction, airborne and resource professionals since 2002. This helps establish ourselves as the go-to team in Calgary, Canada, and the USA. Plus, we provide a wide selection of equipment, including global navigation satellite systems, RTK GPS equipment, GNSS receivers, and more. We strive to provide the highest level of customer care and service for everyone. To speak to one of our team today, call us at 403-286-0333 or email us at [email protected] 

About the Author

Nolan has been working in the surveying field since 2017, starting as a part-time student at Bench-Mark while attending the University of Calgary. He now works in technical support and sales helping customers find the right product for them.

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