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RTK GNSS Receivers: 4 Things You Can do to Extend the Life of Your Receivers

RTK receivers can be a large and intimidating investment for a land surveyor. Ensuring you get the most out of this equipment, and extend the life span as long as possible is crucial in ensuring that you get the most out of your investment. In this article, I am going to cover 4 things you can do to increase the life-span of your receiver.

1. Water Proof Doesn’t Mean Water Tight

I am sure it has happened to you at some point. You are out on site and it begins to rain cats and dogs. There is nowhere to hide, and you and your equipment are completely soaked. Everything is dripping wet, and there is no relief from the onslaught anywhere.

To get out of the rain, you rush through the job and cut some corners while putting your equipment away. Even though everything is wet, you throw it all in the case anyway and close everything up. In your rush to get home and dry and in the process, you forget about your wet equipment. On accident you have left the soaking wet equipment inside the case.

This scenario leads to the most common form of water damage we see. Yes, the receivers are IP67 rated, but that only means they can survive in 1 m of water for 30 minutes. When stuck inside a case wet, the water becomes trapped inside the case, forming a vapour that can get inside the receiver. It is only a matter of time before water gets inside the receiver. And once inside, the water can wreck untold damage on the receiver, permanently damaging it and leaving you with the potential for a huge repair bill. 

Before putting any wet equipment inside of a case, make sure to thoroughly dry it off. Once inside a sealed case, you are creating perfect conditions for water to enter your receiver and damage the internals.

2. Batteries In the Reciever

A common them will soon emerge through these topics, taking shortcuts doesn’t often payoff. Much like the above scenario, the result of this shortcut can damage the internals of your receiver. Before putting your receiver away, you should always take the batteries out.

If the batteries are left inside the receiver, the receiver can accidentally come on, or be left on inside the case. This can result in damage to the internal radio and other internal boards. When turned on inside the case, the heat generated by the radio has no where to go. It is trapped inside the case, and your RTK receiver has no way to properly dissipate that heat. There are no internal fans inside the receiver, it relies on the environment to cool itself down. The foam innards of the case, instead of just acting as an insulation against impacts, now act as an insulator for the heat generated by the receiver.

The heat will continue to build up until such a time where either the batteries die or the receiver becomes damaged. Even if the batteries die, repeated cycles of this occurring will damage internal components of the receiver. You may not notice any difference over time, but repeated cycles of this occurring will reduce battery life, and your radio range.   

3. Antennaes

The most common complaint we receive about RTK receivers is a reduction in radio range. The above-mentioned battery issues can contribute to this, but there is one more sinister and less obvious culprit. And that is the receiver radio antennas.

9 out of every 10 times we hear a complaint about radio range, the solution is an easy fix. New radio antennas. Over time, repeated wear and tear on the antenna whip and port leads to a reduction in performance. The most common cause of this damage is improper storage of the antenna.

I am sure most of you properly stow your antennas in the correct manner. You carefully place the antennas in the case and avoid any unnecessary bends or force on the antenna. Yes, the antennas are flexible, but that does not mean you should be forcing them into the case by bending them. This flexibility should only be used by accident, as repeated bending will damage the internal filament of the antenna. It is the same principal as bending a paper clip back and forth. Over time the metal of the paper clip fatigues and breaks. What happens to the antenna is very similar.

It may also be tempting to leave the antenna on the receiver when putting it in the case. This may be possible for some receivers, but avoid doing this on any of the Hemisphere line of receivers. The cases that come standard with the Hemisphere S320, S321, S321+ and S631 are not designed to hold the receiver in this manner. The antennas should be taken off the receiver, to avoid accidentally bending or breaking them. One should also be careful modifying the receiver case to allow for then antenna to be stored on the receiver. By cutting away the foam to allow for this, the receiver is no longer seated correctly in the case. If an impact or fall were to take place, the receiver is no longer properly protected and can be damaged on the fall.

By simply placing your antennas carefully in the case you can any future headaches and hits to your wallet.  

4. Proper Poles and Tripods

One of the more underrated pieces of an RTK setup is the accessories that go along with it. The poles and tripods are often forgotten and simply taken for granted. However, cheaping out, and saving a few dollars can cost much more down the road.

Your poles and tripod are what makes the RTK work. Without them, it would be much more difficult to properly do your job. You have to be able to trust your pole and tripod to securely hold your equipment. If tripod legs look damaged, or a pole looks cracked, they could fail and drop your equipment. The S631 is not impervious to fall damage. It is rated to a 2m fall on to concrete, but that does not account for any rocks or defects on the surface that could cause damage.

Network rovers are a slightly different problem. If possible, try to find another SIM card, and eliminate that as There is no worse feeling than receiving a big repair bill only because you decided to cheap out on your pole and tripod. Regularly inspect your pole and tripod for damage that may cause a failure while you are working. It is also a good idea to examine the threads were your RTK receiver meets with the pole and tripod. Over time, these threads can be worn down and are no longer as effective as they once were. 

Finishing Up

It is my hope that you can take a thing or two from this article and avoid a costly mistake or two. The above factors are the most common causes for repairs we see here at Bench-Mark. Taking a minute or two out of your day to implement these recommendations into your setup can save you time and money down the road. Every once and a while we come across receivers that are nearly twenty years old that are still in perfect working condition as their owners have followed these recommendations. Check out our video on this subject here.

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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