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GNSS industry adapts during COVID-19

Companies, contributors share success stories

Social distancing and stay-at-home orders are affecting every sector of our economy. How are companies in our industry rising to this enormous challenge? What are they doing to keep their staffs, customers, and communities safe and to help slow down the spread of the pandemic? What are they learning in the process?

We asked our marketing partners, Editorial Advisory Board members and “Innovation” Editor Richard Langley the questions below so that we could share their collective wisdom with you, our readers. The advertisers’ responses appear in alphabetical order by company, followed by the responses by EAB members.

We will continue to publish these responses here as we receive them; we will also publish a selection of them in the May print issue of GPS World.

The World of Academia: Lecturing from Home

Richard Langley, GPS World “Innovation” Editor

Professor, Department of Geodesy and Geomatics Engineering,
University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, Canada

"Innovation" Editor and UNB Professor Richard Langley lectures to his students online. (Screenshot: Richard Langley/UNB)

“Innovation” Editor and UNB Professor Richard Langley lectures to his students online. (Screenshot: Richard Langley/UNB)

On March 13, the president of the University of New Brunswick announced that as of the following day due to the Coronavirus-19 outbreak in the province of New Brunswick, all in-person classes would be suspended for the remained of the school term, and that starting March 23, classes would resume using alternative methods to support delivery outside the classroom. Faculty members like me had a week to find other ways to deliver our courses to the students. Some of us turned to pre-recorded video presentations and some, like me, to live class sessions using online video conferencing tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams. I tried both but ended up using Teams on the advice of the university administration.

This term I was teaching GGE 3111: Introduction to Adjustment Calculus. Basically, it’s an introductory course on the mathematical technique of least-squares analysis. Least squares, where one seeks to find the minimum of the sum of the squares of the estimated errors in measurements, is a fundamental technique for analyzing data in many application areas in the sciences and engineering disciplines, including the processing of GNSS data. It was pioneered back in the early 1800s by Gauss, the great German mathematician and father of modern geodesy.

Incidentally, Kalman filtering also widely used for processing GNSS data, is essentially a recursive approach to the least-squares problem. The example I am doing on the board (see screenshot) is how to fit a straight line to data pairs x and y where both the x and y values contain random measurement errors. I have always taught GGE 3111 using the blackboard or, since lecturing from the dining room of my house by video link, a whiteboard.

I recorded my home-delivered lectures and provided these to the students through the Desire to Learn platform that UNB uses for teaching. Not all of the students could attend the live lectures as some had returned home to provinces with several hour time differences from New Brunswick making it inconvenient to attend a morning lecture. Others no longer had a good Internet connection to view real-time video.

The recordings also provided a useful resource to the students for reviewing the course material. When we eventually return to normality, I might continue to record my lectures. They could even form the basis of an online version of my course available to UNB students and non-students alike.

CAST Navigation

CAST Navigation has overcome many obstacles and challenges to be able to provide our customers with the products and services that are valuable to them during this difficult period. The company has instituted a set of strict policies and procedures that allow us to manage our facility hours and employee “distancing” practices. We have also enabled employees to work remotely if necessary and we continue to work very closely with our vendor supply chain to minimize delays and impacts to our schedule. These policies and procedures, along with a very focused and devoted staff, have allowed us to continue to provide the superior quality products and services on which our customers rely.

Eos Positioning Systems

Jean-Ives Latoure, Chief Technical Officer

Jean-Ives Latoure, Eos Positioning Systems

Jean-Ives Latoure, Eos Positioning Systems

Eos Positioning Systems’ employees are able to work remotely in most cases. In fact, prior to the pandemic, a number of full-time employees worked remotely across Canada, the United States, and the Asia/Pacific region. Now, we’ve transitioned all employees to remote working and transitioned the tasks of individuals whose routine work was directly affected by the virus. We’ve also added a weekly all-staff video Zoom meeting to address everything from company questions to individual wellbeing.

We were already grateful for our ecosystem of staff, partners, and customers, but everyone has shown their positive colors even more in response to this pandemic. Everyone remains responsive across platforms and time zones. The uptick in social media engagements of our customers and partners has been particularly great to see.

In addition, we’ve heard from some customers that they are using our GNSS receivers more during this time. Because our receivers are easy to use for the novice, office workers who would typically not do fieldwork are being trained on field work, which can be a naturally socially distanced, one-person job.

As expected, many of the events we enjoy sponsoring have been postponed or canceled. We’re working with event coordinators and our own team to ensure that when events start up again, we are prepared to go back to business as usual. We are really, truly looking forward to seeing our customers, partners, and colleagues in person again!


Ismael Colomina, Chief Scientist

Editorial Advisory Board Member

Ismael Colomina

Ismael Colomina, GeoNumerics

At GeoNumerics, we are all OK, including our families. As we are an R&D-intensive company focused on algorithms, software, and consultancy, we are lucky these days. Furthermore, some of our employees —women with young children — were already teleworking most of the time. Therefore, it was easy to extend this to the rest of the company.

Since mid-March, everyone is at his/her place teleworking. This enables us to:

  • keep the company running
  • keep our employees busy like in “normal” days
  • protect our customers by meeting deadlines
  • protect the economy by not stopping the business
  • on a case-by-case basis, help our providers/partners who had to stop their business.

Internally, we share a “good morning” short communication via WhatsApp and a daily 20 minute “virtual coffee break” after lunch via Skype.


Miguel Amor, Chief Marketing Officer, Autonomy & Positioning Division

Editorial Advisory Board Member

Miguel Armor

Miguel Armor

COVID-19 is affecting everyone on a global scale, which means that we all must work together to limit the spread of the virus and protect the people at risk. At Hexagon, our priority is keeping our employees and customers safe, and we are following all guidelines and recommendations set up at national, regional and local levels to do so.

Through all of this, we recognize that our employees and our customers are relying on Hexagon more than ever. Rest assured that we are taking all necessary steps to protect our employees and to minimize risk to the supply of our products and our services to our customers.

At Hexagon | NovAtel, we believe our size, reach, and position not only provide great opportunities but also carry great responsibilities. We understand that the GNSS community in general is relying on NovAtel more than ever and we are taking all the necessary steps to support the community and our customers.


Javad Ashjaee, President and CEO

Javad Ashjaee (Photo: Javad GNSS)

Javad Ashjaee (Photo: Javad GNSS)

Just like many of you, we at JAVAD GNSS are quickly and actively adapting to the changing times caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic. We recognize that JAVAD plays an important role in many of your operations and in supporting the critical missions of our customers. To that end, we are following best practices to curtail the spread of this virus and protect the well-being of our employees and partners, while ensuring we meet the commitments to you that you have come to expect.

Our primary message today is JAVAD GNSS is Open for Business! Our support team is here and ready to assist you as it always has. Please do not hesitate to contact us.


Geoff Besbrode, Product Marketing Executive

We use Skype extensively, to keep in touch with our customers and partners but also for internal conference calls and meetings. There isn’t really a substitute for face-to-face meetings, but Skype is as close as you can get. In terms of communicating with our partners we have very much moved into the digital space. We have instead held webinars using WebEx which have been very well received. We have more planned so watch this space!

We have learned that we can work very well under pressure! With COVID-19 postponing some of our favorite shows we didn’t want to sit back and do nothing. We had to act very quickly and look at other ways of communicating our message. Not only have we as a business been agile enough to do this, despite working remotely, our channel partners have really taken on board what we’ve been trying to achieve and helped us exceed our goals.

Don’t use COVID-19 as an excuse to rest on your laurels. Take it as an opportunity to do some of the things that you otherwise wouldn’t have done.

Parker LORD

Elena Shapiro, Marketing Manager

To collaborate remotely, a safe distance from each other, we use video messaging (MS Teams) with team(s) daily, as well as Confluence (engineering documentation) and Jira (task management) for remote collaboration.

Much of our team is able to continue efficient operations while working remotely. Collaborating with our customers has always been a service we offer – which, we believe, leads to better product performance and reliability. This pandemic has pushed the majority of the country/world into remote working. While we aren’t able to be in person with customers, accessible remote tools and collaboration help us continue to provide hands-on customer service, without actually using our hands.

Parker LORD designs and produces MicroStrain inertial sensors that are used in robots that aid in delivery, mapping, and surveillance activities. Our inertial measurement units (IMU) and inertial navigation systems (INS) are designed to allow quick time-to-market development. We offer IMU/INS integration with our recently updated Robot Operating System (ROS) drivers for ease of use. By using our sensors, we have reduced development time while also offering top performance and competitive pricing. There are different levels of inertial sensors based on the performances available depending on the application being used.

As the need for measurement and navigation solutions increase with the demand for delivery, safety and automated robotic monitoring, our new 3DMGQ7-GNSS/INS dual antenna RTK-enabled INS provides next level performance with integrated custom IMU, dual integrated RTK-capable multi-constellation GNSS receivers, integrated barometric pressure sensor, and magnetometer. Beyond the integrated sensors the GQ7 offers hardware support for wheel odometry and API support for external velocity sensor measurements. This sensor has been designed for use in markets such as beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), unmanned vehicle navigation, legged robots, and autonomous vehicles. It’s an all-in-one system solution (GNSS-INS + RTK + SensorCloud RTK).

Get ready for the robot revolution. There was momentum in that direction before, in areas such as delivery, recon and mapping. Acceptance of these technologies will only increase now and in the future.


Julian Thomas, Managing Director

Julian Thomas, Managing Director. (Photo: Racelogic)

Julian Thomas, Managing Director, Racelogic

Racelogic, the company behind LabSat GNSS simulators, is based in Buckingham, UK. Like many companies, we are adjusting to new ways of working and remote collaboration. With the majority of our 100 staff now working from home, I have few concerns about their ability to adapt and am confident that the outcome will be one of success. However, I am also aware that the paths taken over the coming weeks or months are unlikely to be without a few bumps in the road.

I am hearing reports from all corners of Racelogic about how staff are dealing with these unprecedented circumstances. For example, Katie Harland, our LabSat Support and Applications Technician, is continuing to support our customers from home. However, without a rooftop antenna on her building she has had to be a little inventive about how she gains a live satellite feed to record test scenarios. Her solution was to mount an antenna on a ground plate devised from the lid of a biscuit tin and set it on her garden wall. An effective solution, but one that is not straight forward when you are 5’2” and the garden wall is 7’ tall.

I am also noticing changes to what a “normal” day at work now looks like. With so many staff working remotely I find myself walking through the office and instead of checking on project progress I am rebooting computers, connecting equipment, accessing server files, and generally servicing those who are working remotely. I think it is easy to fall into the trap of obsessing about perfecting remote working. I don’t think you can go too far wrong if you focus on the things you can do, even if you need a ladder to get there.


Jean-Marie Sleewaegen, System Architect

Editorial Advisory Board Member

Jean-Marie Sleewaegen

Jean-Marie Sleewaegen

During these challenging times, Septentrio continues to be operational and to serve its customers. We have taken measures to ensure health and safety within the company. Most of my colleagues and I are working from home, while manufacturing has been divided into two shifts to guarantee continuity and provide the safest possible working conditions. Although international travel is suspended for the moment, we continue to have regular meetings via phone or web with our partners, customers and prospective clients.

This virus is forcing us to rethink the way we work and interact. As we adjust to the new situation, we are finding ways to continue working with as little disruption as possible, leveraging the efficient communication networks and remote-control solutions available to us today. Along the way we might even discover new more efficient and environmentally friendly ways of working.

In addition to ensuring employee safety, Septentrio is also dedicated to help fight the virus by providing reliable high-accuracy positioning solutions to technologies that are making a difference. For example, aerial drones have been used by police in Europe to announce new government regulations in public places and to scope out large areas for public gatherings. To ensure public safety it is vital that the sensors aboard these aerial drones, such as their positioning receivers, are robust and reliable even in challenging conditions.

Septentrio receivers have already proven themselves in the field by providing reliable accurate positioning for safety-critical projects such as the senseFly eBee mission to map out the spread of infectious disease. Matternet delivery drones fly over busy cities to avoid traffic and deliver blood samples for testing faster.

Other delivery drones such as Zipline and Wing are expected to ramp up speed with the increase of automation required to fight the coronavirus. In the European Union and the United States regulations around drone use are stricter than in China and thus the full potential of drones is not yet realized to its maximum.

Spirent Federal

Ellen Hall, President and CEO

Editorial Advisory Board Member

Ellen Hall

Ellen Hall, CEO, Spirent Federal

Since our inception, a few of our employees have worked from home due to traffic issues, work/home responsibilities, or simply geographical location issues. Over the years, we decided as a company not only that this was working very well, but that everyone who could work from home should be allowed to have the same privileges. In the past two years, we have allowed everyone to work from home, only requiring to come into the company offices those who must be in a lab or for security reasons. Everyone has a laptop computer and remote access to files. We use Zoom, email, and cell phones to communicate with each other and our customers.

When the recommendations from the CDC and the President of the United States were issued to work from home, we were already doing this, so there were no adjustments needed. Those that must work in the lab are practicing social distancing and working on alternate days in some cases.

When we first contacted our customers to attempt visits, we were told that they were not receiving visitors and that it was going to take a few days or weeks to get everyone outfitted with laptops and other technology to continue working from home. We were a bit surprised to learn that others were going through this as we were not having any of these issues.

This crisis has taught us that being prepared and trusting our team to work independently pays off when we really need it. Everyone is being a little extra patient, kind, and understanding. We are seeing this general compassion outside of the office as well and we hope that this has a lasting effect on the world.

Topcon Positioning Group

Jackie Ferreira, Director of Corporate Communications

We are fortunate in that our team is well-versed in online collaboration software, including teleconferencing and online digital asset management systems. We are leveraging tools such as those to keep productive in this crisis.

We are working very well together via safe distancing practices. Our employees around the world are staying active with ongoing conference calls across multiple time zones. Our primary concern is the health and safety of everyone we interact with and we continue to be impressed with how all involved have responded.

Topcon operates with a primary goal of the health and safety of its employees, customers, and suppliers and in accordance with applicable state and local orders, including social distancing requirements. To this end, we provide on-going guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO) and Center for Disease Control (CDC) to our employees to support their health in these critical times.

We encourage compliance with applicable governmental orders concerning their ability to continue to operate, with the understanding of roles within the critical infrastructure supply chain.

We are dedicated to supporting our customers at this critical time and have specific teams working to meet demands to the best of our ability.

Our relationships with our customers and partners are important to us. Topcon strives to work closely together with our partners to protect the industries we serve and accelerate the economic recovery needed in light of the current world crisis. Together we can serve as a beacon of cooperation and commitment to successfully weather these unusual times.

Unicore Communications

Jingbo Gao, Marketing Director, Unicore Communications

Jingbo Gao, Marketing Director

Jingbo Gao, Marketing Director

The outbreak of COVID-19 started around the Spring Festival, and strict control measures to stop the spread of the virus were taken even before the holiday ended. Unicore postponed the return-to-job date by one week and encouraged working from home, except for the key R&D and ST engineers, who cannot perform verification, testing, or debugging outside the labs. However, even then strict social distancing measures were guaranteed. As of February 10, Unicore’s return-to-work rate was more than 80%, with nearly 40% of the employees doing it from the office, while now nearly 90% of Unicore’s labor force is back to normal working mode. Thanks to the 4G networks, fast mobile and Web communications, as well as cloud computing technologies, we were able to easily organize video conferencing, online meetings and group messaging.

Our R&D and product delivery were slightly affected by the COVID-19 due to the delays at some supply plants. However, Unicore has a well-run and organized inventory management system, so most of the orders can be fulfilled on time.

Some of Unicore’s clients use drones to perform disinfectant spraying and logistics transportation, which help to ensure an uninterrupted supply of food and goods. Other clients make intelligent and autonomous sweepers that reduce the need for manual labor and keep the workers safely at home. In order to avoid personal injury, infection and transmission in epidemic areas, drones and/or unmanned vehicles with GNSS high-precision positioning technology have been used for cleaning and disinfection, supplies delivery, and aerial photography in engineering construction.

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