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CHC Navigation introduces CGI-610 GNSS/INS sensor

Photo: CHC Navigation

Photo: CHC Navigation

CHC Navigation has released the new CGI-610 GNSS/INS sensor, a high-precision dual-antenna receiver offering reliable and accurate navigation and positioning solutions for demanding land, marine, and aerial applications.

The tight fusion of the latest GNSS technology with an industrial-grade MEMS IMU is powered by CHCNAV’s algorithms to deliver accurate hybrid position, attitude and velocity data, even in complex and obstructed environments where GNSS outages can occur.

The CGI-610 is a powerful GNSS/INS system supporting data output up to 100 Hz to meet the requirements of highly dynamic applications (including airplane, train and automobile). The optional external odometer sensor for ground vehicles can provide an additional independent measurement of displacement and speed, which is fused with the GNSS/INS navigation solution.

“The CGI-610 GNSS/INS sensor is the perfect answer to the growing demand of robust positioning and navigation systems for the control of any unmanned vehicle and machine, as well as for highly dynamic applications,” said George Zhao, CEO of CHC Navigation. “Industrial system integrators in need of a reliable GNSS/INS sensor with an exceptional price/performance ratio would definitely consider our CGI-610.”

With its 4G modem, CAN and serial ports, the CGI-610 GNSS/INS sensor offers unparalleled compatibility to enable a wide range of applications including machine control, port automation, advanced trajectography, robotics and unmanned vehicles. The CGI-610’s industrial design ensures reliable and consistent operation in the harshest environments.

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Capt. Sullenberger, PNT board against Ligado decision

Opposing the FCC’s Ligado Decision

Not surprisingly, the primary topic at the July 1 meeting of the National Space-based Positioning, Navigation and Timing Advisory Board was the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decision on Ligado Networks.

The meeting, virtually hosted by NASA, began with board chair retired Admiral Thad Allen reading a statement for the board’s record from Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger condemning the FCC’s action.

In it Captain Sullenberger cited many of the issues the board’s vice chair, Brad Parkinson, discussed later in the meeting. Sullenberger’s statement is available here.

In his presentation, Parkinson called the FCC decision “a grave error.” He outlined his rationale in 21 information-packed slides.

Parkinson summarized his presentation up front with three points:

  1. Repurposing the Mobile Satellite Services (MSS) radio spectrum is very high risk and brings virtually no near-term benefit to the United States.
  2. The risks affect much more than the Department of Defense: high-value civil applications are also in jeopardy.
  3. Any such repurposing should have been subject to a formal rulemaking process.

At the end of the presentation, the board voted unanimously to adopt the presentation, with slight modifications, as a reference document for posting on the board’s website.

The group had previously made strong recommendations to the Departments of Defense and Transportation to oppose any such action by the FCC. Both departments have done that and are continuing to do.

Hazardous information versus losing lock

One slide in Parkinson’s presentation included a Department of Transportation (DoT) depiction how of Ligado transmissions would cause several types of receivers to “lose lock.” This graphic was used in a recent DoT presentation to the FCC.

DOT briefing to FCC: “Concerns Over Ligado Order & Authorization,” June 2020. (Slide: DOT)

DOT briefing to FCC: “Concerns Over Ligado Order & Authorization,” June 2020. (Slide: DOT)

Heretofore DoT has usually discussed the points at which Ligado transmissions would cause a 25% increase in the noise floor for receivers. This is an important metric as tests have shown that beyond that point many receiver types begin to give hazardously misleading information. DoT officials have used the example that the 1dB limit is like putting a load limit on vehicles crossing a bridge so that the bridge never reaches its breaking point. An important consideration with a safety-of-life application like GPS.

The National Space-Based PNT Advisory Board. (Board photo)

The National Space-Based PNT Advisory Board. (Board photo)

A receiver often gives inaccurate positioning and timing data, possibly hazardously misleading information, before it “loses lock” and stops providing any information at all. It is more difficult for a receiver to “acquire lock” than to track satellites and provide information, so equipment is rarely able to function again until it moves out of the area of interference.

When asked why DoT would bother to show such information to the FCC, one official suggested that loss of lock was more in line with the criteria the Commission used in making the Ligado decision. The hope was that, by showing that even this flawed standard had significant impacts which the FCC perhaps did not fully recognize, further technical discussions and reconsiderations could be realized.

Other Topics

While discussion of the FCC’s decision took the most time in the on-line meeting, several other issues were discussed as well.

Colonel Curtis Hernandez from the National Security Council briefly described development of a new space-based PNT policy to replace NSDP-39 which was put in place by President Bush in 2004.

He was not able to provide any specifics as it is a draft and still under consideration. Answering a question, he did say that the draft policy outlined the responsibilities of various departments, including for interference detection and monitoring.

Adam Balkcum from the Office of Science and Technology Policy discussed his office’s nascent efforts to investigate non-GNSS PNT as directed by the recent Executive Order on Responsible Use of PNT. The question of whether this includes possible PNT services from low earth orbit and geostationary satellites remains an open one.

Other presenters included:

  • Seth Jonas of the National Security Council staff on the recent Executive Order on Responsible Use of PNT,
  • Andrew Hansen of the Volpe Transportation Systems Center who spoke about efforts to monitor for GPS interference, especially in the post-FCC Ligado decision environment, and
  • NASA’s Chris Bonniksen discussed issues with operating and funding the agency’s Global Differential GPS system.

The agenda for the meeting and presentations are available here, as will be the meeting minutes once they have been finalized.

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Third GPS III powers itself into orbit

Third Lockheed Martin-Built GPS III satellite climbs to orbit on its own power

GPS III SV03 increases number of secure military code (M-code) enabled satellites in GPS constellation to 22 total. 

After a successful launch on June 30, the third Lockheed Martin-built GPS III satellite headed to orbit under its own propulsion. The satellite separated from its rocket and used onboard power to climb to its operational orbit, approximately 12,550 miles above the Earth.

GPS III Space Vehicle 03 is responding to commands from U.S. Space Force and Lockheed Martin engineers in the Launch & Checkout Center at the company’s Denver facility. There, they declared rocket booster separation and satellite control about 90 minutes after the satellite’s June 30 launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

“In the coming days, GPS III SV03’s onboard liquid apogee engines will continue to propel the satellite towards its operational orbit,” said Tonya Ladwig, Lockheed Martin’s acting vice president for Navigation Systems. “Once it arrives, we’ll send the satellite commands to deploy its solar arrays and antennas, and prepare the satellite for handover to Space Operations Command.”

After on-orbit testing, GPS III SV03 is expected to join the GPS constellation — including GPS III SV01 and SV02, which were declared operational in January and April — in providing positioning, navigation and timing signals for more than four billion military, civil and commercial users.

Lockheed Martin designed GPS III to help the Space Force modernize the GPS constellation with new technology and capabilities. The new GPS IIIs provide three times better accuracy and up to eight times improved anti-jamming capabilities over any previous GPS satellite. They also offer a new L1C civil signal, which is compatible with other international global navigation satellite systems, like Europe’s Galileo, to improve civilian user connectivity.

GPS III also continues the Space Force’s plan to field M-code, a more-secure, harder-to-jam and spoof GPS signal for our military forces. GPS III SV03 brings the number of M-code enabled satellites to 22 in the 31-satellite GPS constellation.

“As a nation, we use GPS signals every day — they time-stamp all our financial transactions, they make aviation safe, they make precision farming possible, and so much more,” added Ladwig. “GPS has become a critical part of our national infrastructure. In fact, the U.S. economic benefit of GPS is estimated to be over $300 billion per year and $1.4 trillion since its inception. Continued investment in modernizing GPS — updating technology, improving its capabilities — is well worth it.”

Screenshot: SpaceX live feed of launch

Screenshot: SpaceX live feed of launch

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Altitude Angel powers BVLOS flights in India with Sagar Defence

The Sagar Defence Spectre UAV. (Photo: Sagar Defence Engineering)

The Sagar Defence Spectre UAV. (Photo: Sagar Defence Engineering)

Altitude Angel, an unmanned traffic management (UTM) technology provider, is partnering with Mumbai-based Sagar Defence Engineering Ltd. in BVLOS trials supported by India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).

Together, Altitude Angel and Sagar Defence have been selected by India’s DGCA to carry out beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) drone operations. The results of the trials will help define India’s regulatory framework for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in routine UAV deployment.

Altitude Angel’s GuardianUTM platform will enable BVLOS drone flights around a multitude of real-life scenarios including medical and cargo delivery, surveillance operations, survey & mapping, and search & rescue operations.

The Union Government has recently begun the process of granting regulatory permissions to the operation of drones for commercial purposes.

On participating in the BVLOS trials Richard Ellis, Altitude Angel’s chief business officer, said, “The potential for UAV use in India is immense so we’re excited to be partnering with Sagar Defence on these BVLOS trials. The ability to fly safely and securely BVLOS will unlock the potential of drones not just in India, but across the world. With Sagar, we’re very much looking forward to showcasing our proven technology to demonstrate the amazing use-cases of drones.”

Mridul Babbar, Sagar Defence’s  business development head added, “Sagar Defence Engineering and Altitude Angel, two highly skilled teams, coming together for the BVLOS trials is a very strong partnership and one we’re thrilled to be part of. The combination of our UAVs and Altitude Angel’s world leading UTM platform will undoubtedly help advance the prospects of BVLOS flight across India and beyond.”

The BVLOS trials are scheduled to take place from August through to October 2020.

The trials will further build on trials Altitude Angel has been involved in this year. The company served as the lead and umbrella UTM for the Lake Kivu Challenge, part of the African Drone Forum, which took place on the shores of Lake Kivu, Rwanda, in January.

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NXP and Auterion join on hardware/software integration for drones

NXP and Auterion join forces to enable next-generation secure drone fleets with automotive certified solutions, high-reliability networking, and a scalable and open software platform.

Photo: narvikk/ iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Photo: narvikk/ iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

On July 6 at the PX4 Developer Summit 2020, NXP Semiconductors and Auterion announced a collaboration to develop integrated hardware and software solutions for the unmanned aerial systems industry.

Working together, the companies aim to develop highly reliable and advanced hardware and software solutions deployable in an unmanned aerial vehicle.

With the development of regulations and the increasing number of autonomous systems in the field, the requirement for components and software that are certifiable and the ability to deploy intelligence on the edge is becoming more and more important.

NXP provides semiconductor components and expertise leading to certifiable electronics solutions, including computational horsepower, secure element for encryption and authentication, and high reliability automotive networking.

Auterion is offering the hardware reference design and Auterion Enterprise PX4, the software for the flight controller and the mission computer to make drone fleets safe and fully integrated into workflows. Auterion is the largest contributor to PX4 and builds its software platform on open standards, ensuring that enterprises have access to a managed and tested distribution of the open source technology.

The partnership addresses the needs of the unmanned aerial vehicles industry for compatible hardware and software solutions that will help drone manufactures bring state-of-the-art products to market. The aim is to ensure that manufacturers have a streamlined path to certification and are connected to existing workflows.

“This partnership will enable the mobile robotics community with the components meeting quality specifications needed to ensure functional safety and security in drones and rovers based on reliable long life industrial and automotive parts and reference designs,” said Iain Galloway, Drone Program Lead, Systems Innovation, NXP. “We have been participating in the open source PX4 community for several years now and with this close relationship with Auterion, and Auterion Enterprise PX4, we are excited to work together to ensure these vehicles are prepared to meet current and future regulations and standards governing modular safe drone architectures.”

“Safety is the number one priority in commercial drone operations. NXP’s leading position as a semiconductor provider for safety-critical automotive applications is the perfect pairing for Auterion’s enterprise-grade drone software platform,” said Lorenz Meier, co-founder and CEO, Auterion. “Together, we will be able to provide integrated hardware and software solutions to the drone industry that combine high-performance compute with safety-first engineering.”

NXP and Auterion will collaborate on the core hardware and software components of an autonomous system, this includes, but is not limited to, the following topics:

Developing the next generation Auterion Skynode avionics module reference design, based on the latest Pixhawk autopilot Reference Standards and on the NXP i.MX 8M Mini as a companion computer, and on future components in this family.

  • Integrating navigation modules incorporating NXP Ultra-Wideband (UWB), automotive MCU, NFC and authentication for precision landing applications.
  • Developing Battery Management System (BMS) solutions based on the latest Pixhawk Smart Battery Standards.
  • Developing Automotive CAN and CAN-FD node solutions supporting popular software protocols such as UAVCAN and MRCAN for mobile robotics peripherals.
  • Collaborate in the data cybersecurity and drone regulatory space to help shape and meet future regulations.

Both parties will continue to support the PX4 open source community and upstream PX4 development, in an effort to enable the whole industry.

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Geneq offers F100 integrated receiver with multi-touch screen

Geneq Inc.’s new F100 GNSS receiver, an upgrade to the F90, is designed to meet surveyors’ demands for high field performance, flexibility and cost-effectiveness.

The F100 tracks multiple constellations (GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, Beidou) and can maximize the acquisition and tracking process with all-in-view GNSS frequencies.

Another important feature from the F100 is the 1.45-inch color LCD display with a multi-touch capacitive screen. It has 32GB of internal memory. Its integrated second-generation web user interface control is compatible with all devices and all browsers.

Photo: Geneq

Photo: Geneq

Providing maximum performance for accuracy and real-time measurements, F100 also supports real-time kinematic (RTK) correction services, including the RTX service that can get centimeter-level accuracy without a base station. The F100, with its advanced technology, ensures high performance even in difficult environments such as under heavy canopy.

The F100 has an excellent combination of GNSS, 4G, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi antenna. The innovative F100 has a built-in 5-watt radio that enables an effective baseline of 10 kilometers.

Its shorter charging time and a battery of 13600-mAh capacity enable long hours in the field. Even with its magnesium alloy casing, F100 weighs only 1.5 kg and measures 154 x 154 x 76 millimeters. Mobile field workers will find in this feature an ally to their surveying productivity.

With its integrated high-sensitive E-bubble and new tilt survey algorithm, the F100 becomes a calibration-free GNSS receiver. Immune to magnetic disturbance and free from limitation of tilt angles, the F100 can be used to measure unreachable points.

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Launchpad: GNSS antennas, vehicle management


Geodetic antenna

Designed for GNSS networks and monitoring applications

Photo: CHC Navigation

Photo: CHC Navigation

The AT661 geodetic antenna for GNSS networks or monitoring applications supports all current and future GNSS signals, including GPS, GLONASS, BeiDou, Galileo, QZSS, IRNSS, SBAS and L-band. The antenna features both high-gain LNA and wide beamwidth to provide excellent flexibility in applications requiring low-elevation satellite reception and high availability of GNSS signals, especially in obstructed situations. The accuracy of the antenna’s phase center reaches the millimeter level with extremely high stability and repeatability to ensure perfect processing of GNSS data regardless of the length of the baselines. The AT661 withstands all types of weather, including large temperature fluctuations, and is protected by a waterproof radome.

CHC Navigation,

Spectrum Analyzer

Portability for signal analysis

Photo: ThinkRF

Photo: ThinkRF

The ThinkRF R5750 Real-Time Spectrum Analyzer with GPS offers high spectral performance, low power consumption, and portability. The R5750 analyzer is built for outdoor, mobile and distributed deployment scenarios, including regulatory and intelligence monitoring, telecom deployment optimization, and RF application development. Users can deploy units in a variety of network architectures, analyze signals in real-time or later, and easily integrate with leading software applications to conduct demodulation or deeper analysis of signals up to 27 GHz. The R5750 analyzer includes embedded GPS for time and location data, and comes with an optional IP66 rating for increased durability and ruggedness in difficult environments.


Phase noise analyzer

For precision oscillator characterization

Photo: Microchip Technology

Photo: Microchip Technology

The 53100A Phase Noise Analyzer takes precise and accurate measurements of frequency signals, including those generated by atomic clocks and other high-performance frequency reference modules and subsystems. It combines timing technologies in a small, high-performance measurement instrument designed for engineers and scientists who rely on precise and accurate measurement of frequency signals generated for 5G networks, data centers, commercial and military aircraft systems, space vehicles, communication satellites and metrology applications. Up to three separate devices can be tested simultaneously using a single reference, enabling higher capacity for stability measurements.

Microchip Technology,

Rugged antenna

For construction and machine control

Ruggedized GNSS antenna HX-CVX600A. (Photo: Harxon)

Ruggedized GNSS antenna HX-CVX600A. (Photo: Harxon)

The IP69K ruggedized HX-CVX600A antenna provides end users with millimeter accuracy, durability and productivity. The antenna is designed for applications subject to high shock and vibration environments such as machine control. Integrated with reliable signal tracking and strong anti-interference performance, the Harxon HX-CVX600A offers full support for reliable and consistent satellite signal tracking, including GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, BeiDou, QZSS, IRNSS and SBAS, as well as L-band correction services. Its stable phase center adopts multipoint feeding technology, exceptional low-elevation satellite tracking with symmetric radiation patterns, high gain with ultra-low signal loss, as well as outstanding wide-angle circular polarization. The aerodynamic enclosure withstands exposure against dust, rain, splash or sunlight.



Marine receiver

Quad-band GNSS for marine environments

Photo: Veripos

Photo: Veripos

The LD900 is a quad-band GNSS receiver capable of tracking GPS, GLONASS, BeiDou, Galileo and QZSS constellations to provide reliable and accurate positioning. The LD900 also receives L-band signals on multiple channels, providing access to Veripos’ worldwide independent correction services. Using the independent L-band RF input on the LD900 allows the connection of a dedicated L-band antenna ensuring optimal reception of correction services, especially at high latitudes. Veripos provides accurate and reliable positioning for all marine applications via their redundant positioning and multi-frequency precise point positioning (PPP) Apex and Ultra services. The Apex5 correction service utilizes all GNSS constellations delivering 5cm positioning accuracy for use in the most demanding offshore applications. Real-time kinematic (RTK) corrections can be utilized by the LD900 for applications where this service is required. The intuitive color display and navigation menu makes setup, configuration and system status monitoring simple. The display also helps troubleshoot issues with the LD900, allowing faults to be quickly diagnosed and resolved. The LD900 can also be configured remotely through the Veripos Quantum software.


Tracking system

Supports internet-of-things (IoT) deployments

Photo: Particle

Photo: Particle

The edge-to-cloud IoT platform Particle is offering a new tracking system that allows organizations to track the locations of a wide variety of mobile assets. Particle’s Tracker system-on-module (SoM) provides a powerful GNSS, microcontroller and advanced peripherals in a compact form factor. Tracker SoM serves as a starting point for organizations that require a tailored tracking solution for sophisticated applications, as well as a fully certified foundation for OEMs developing commercial products. All of the company’s tracking solutions come with a high-gain GNSS antenna accurate to 1.8 meters. The field-ready solution is configurable and can track the real-time location of critical assets and capture additional intelligence via sensor data including temperature and acceleration as well as remotely controlled mobile equipment and vehicles.


Telematics platform

Designed in Europe, now available in North America

Photo: Ruptela

Photo: Ruptela

The Trace 5 plug-and-play GPS-based automatic vehicle location (AVL) tracker and multifunctional fleet management platform TrustTrack provide a ready-to-use telematics solution. The Trace 5 GPS tracker has LTE Cat M1 (4G) connectivity and an integrated battery. TrustTrack is an advanced telematics platform for businesses to manage transport resources. It connects dispatchers and drivers and enables real-time monitoring and drivers’ management. It also generates trip reports.


Vehicle Management

Uses Iridium, GPS, LTE

Photo: Blue Sky Network

Photo: Blue Sky Network

The HawkEye 5500 is the a dual-mode real-time tracking and vehicle management system that supports Iridium, GPS and 2G/3G/LTE. A GNSS/Iridium antenna is included in the kit. The HawkEye 5500 offers full integration of on-board systems, support for both light and heavy-duty vehicles, two-way messaging, a remote emergency switch, collision detection, audible alerts, RFID and Bluetooth driver identification and customizable application integration. It provides global always-on coverage with high-resolution tracking and communication. Users can customize reporting rates based on movement or location and provide driver feedback when safety violations occur. All operations are tracked via Blue Sky Network’s portal, SkyRouter, which allows for effective high-security command and control of fleets anywhere on the planet.

Blue Sky Network,


Mobile Mapper

For infrastructure, mining, forestry, construction

Photo: Kaarta

Photo: Kaarta

The Stencil Pro, now in beta testing, is a professional-grade mobile mapping platform with dimensional and visual fidelity. The all-in-one system can scan, process and view captured data in real time. It offers panoramic high-definition 4K imagery and colorized point clouds, and is optimized for both indoor and outdoor lighting. Its simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) capabilities enable it to operate in GNSS-denied areas such as indoor, underground, under thick canopy, or in urban canyons. However, it is also fully geo-enabled with an integrated Trimble BD-990 receiver, AV-28 antenna and a range of other third-party GNSS antennas. It supports accuracy enhancements through live RTK/NTRIP processing as well as PPK corrections. GNSS positioning data is used to align and geo-register data for accuracy. The onboard GNSS and color cameras are fully integrated into real-time capture. If a colorized point cloud is not required, or GNSS is not available, reliance on other sensors is seamless.


Mobile app

With tool for geologists

Photo: Touch GIS

Photo: Touch GIS

Touch GIS is a powerful mobile app for field data collection and visualization. Version 1.3 features a digital clinometer to assist field geologists in recording strike and dip readings as well as a new attitude attribute type, which makes it easy to record and display these readings on the map. Touch GIS has powerful file support for industry-standard types, offline mapping capabilities, and accurate drawing tools for points, lines and polygons.

Touch GIS,


Drone platform

For precise aerial inspections and data collection

The Matrice 300 RTK UAV from DJI is designed for the next level in data collection and site inspection. (Photo: DJI)

The Matrice 300 RTK UAV. (Photo: DJI)

The Matrice 300 RTK is DJI’s most advanced commercial drone platform to date. It integrates modern aviation features, advanced artificial intelligence capabilities, a six-directional sensing and positioning system and a UAV health management system. It has 55 minutes of flight time. The drone platform has AES-256 encryption and an IP45 weather-resistant enclosure. A built-in all-new OcuSync Enterprise transmission system provides a triple-channel 1080p video transmission signal reaching up to 15 kilometers away. The M300 RTK can support up to three payloads simultaneously and up to a total payload capability of 2.7 kg.



Robust positioning in demanding industrial environments

Photo: Septentrio

Photo: Septentrio

The AsteRx-i D UAS combines centimeter-level positioning with 3D orientation, enabling automated navigation of aerial drones and robots. It is compact and lightweight, with a high-performance inertial measurement unit from Analog Devices integrated directly into the receiver board. Its small form-factor combined with exceptionally low power consumption results in extended battery life and longer flight times. Both single-antenna and dual-antenna versions are available. The single-antenna version provides a lightweight solution optimizing the system size, weight and power (SWaP). The dual-antenna version is designed for machines that need reliable heading from the start.


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Seen & Heard: Speed traps and rescuing koalas

“Seen & Heard” is a monthly feature of GPS World magazine, traveling the world to capture interesting and unusual news stories involving the GNSS/PNT industry. 

Photo: Drazen Zigic/iStock/Getty Images/Getty Images Plus

Photo: Drazen Zigic/iStock/Getty Images/Getty Images Plus

Where’s the Beef?

A new mapping app is helping Los Angeles County residents find more than 2,000 food resources, during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Sponsored by the non-profit 211 LA County, the LA FoodFinder is powered by Slingshot Earth, which aggregates food resources and service data from multiple public and private sources. The app enables residents to find resources for child nutrition, meal services, groceries/food pantries, senior food needs and government food benefits programs. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, 211 LA County has experienced a 10-fold increase in website traffic for food needs.

Photo: Symbiont/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Photo: Symbiont/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Use that app in Germany? No Waze!

The German government has amended its road traffic regulations to outlaw apps that alert drivers to speed cameras. The law makes it clear that any app used for traffic-monitoring alerts is forbidden, whether it runs on a phone, tablet or a GPS navigation system. Violating the traffic laws and using speed camera apps inside a car could result in a fine of up to €75 (about $83). Both Garmin and TomTom have emailed registered users alerting them to the news.

Photo: Geoffrey Blewitt/Debra Vigil

Photo: Geoffrey Blewitt/Debra Vigil

Making the most of GPS data

University of Nevada 2020 Outstanding Researcher Geoffrey Blewitt has made the most of GPS data to study changes in Earth’s crust, from the Ice Age to today. Nevada Today outlines his significant discoveries, including that GPS data may hold a key to detecting dark matter. Other discoveries: Nevada is the fastest growing state, geologically speaking, as it spreads apart. Drought in the western U.S. is causing the Sierra Nevada to lift, and the melting of ice sheets in Greenland is changing the shape of Earth.

Photo: iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Photo: iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Koala care

Drones equipped with FLIR thermal-imaging cameras helped save koalas injured in this summer’s Australia bushfires. In a search-and-rescue operation, Victoria wildlife experts and police used DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual drones to scan the forest for injured koalas, many found clinging to scorched eucalyptus trees. The images were relayed to a ground station in a nearby van for closer inspection. When a koala was located, the experts stepped in to assess the animal, and if needed, provide healthcare and relocate it. The team used cherry pickers to retrieve the little animals.

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Surveying and geospatial data: the perfect couple

1800s theodolite. (Photo:

1800s theodolite. (Photo:

Everywhere we look, data is being collected, reviewed, analyzed and stored. It used to be that data was a static piece of information, like a piece of paper in a filing cabinet. Millions of pieces of data being created yet almost all of it never to be used again. The computer and electronic storage began a revolution of how we warehouse this information but that was only the beginning. Technology has turned data into a living, breathing beast few understand yet it controls most of our lives in various ways.

Mapping of the earth has not always been about establishing boundaries and parcels; many of the early maps and plats were created to depict the topography of our world. While there are some indications that Middle East maps depicted parcels, the first examples of topographic maps were created during the Roman Empire era of 300 A.D. It is common knowledge that the Romans utilized primitive yet cunning engineering for roads, buildings, and waterways but it was the initial topography that was mapped that allowed them to design those forward-thinking infrastructure components. Because of the lack of sophistication in the measuring methods and data collection, these topographic maps covered small areas and often crude because of the materials available. Considering what they were working with, it is still incredible what they were able to map, design and build.

Measuring devices and methods of data collection expanded over the centuries like most occupations and professions. By the 16th and 17th century, mathematics has been introduced at a wider scale through many educational facilities. Another profession, geographers, also advanced with the evolution of measuring devices and mapping techniques. It was during this period that we began to see a crossover with surveyors with geographers to create topographic maps with greater accuracy and precision through triangulation.

In the 18th and 19th century, instruments became more sophisticated to assist in the determination of elevations and more accurate angle measurements. The concept of triangulation flourished during this period and significant mapping was made for most of the civilized world. The early 1800s saw the westward push of expansion in the United States and Thomas Jefferson, U.S. president and former surveyor, led the charge to map the existing states and divide the west into sectional land for sale to settlers.

Besides the establishment of the Public Land Survey System, surveyors also provided topographic information for map of all sizes for future development planning. The late 1800s brought a large amount of topographic mapping information to paper through efforts by the U.S. Geological Society to map the entire United States. This information has been called the first land database; although crude in overall nature compared to today’s standards, it contained an enormous amount of topographic information.

These surveys continued well into the early 20th century until a revolutionary invention coupled with a current technology merged: the use of a mounted camera taking aerial photographs from an airplane. Geographers and photogrammetrists were able to use surveying data to assist with scaling orthometric photographs to create aerial images of thousands of acres of land. These aerial photos became the base layer for determining topographic features and contouring, covering much more land than ever before. Additional innovations included advancements in stereo plotting and photogrammetric techniques to further create high sophisticated topographic maps for the era. This type of mapping was the gold standard for decades depicting existing condition and topographic features for most of the world until the early 1970s and the computerized data revolution.

Computers take over the world (literally)

1960s mainframe computer (Photo: NASA)

1960s mainframe computer (Photo: NASA)

While mainframe computers became more universally used in the 1960s, their use was contained to governmental agencies and large corporations. As the physical size of the computer reduced, the computing capacity increased, programming became easier to complete, and more applications were created to perform a variety of tasks. One of the biggest advancements for the era was electronic storage and analyzation of data through programming. Relational databases became a hot ticket for large datasets; geographic data was the perfect fit for this type of application. Modern mapping was on its way forward at warp speed.

Topographic mapping was not lost in this shuffle. The survey itself is based upon data points located on the face of the earth so each point is just another chunk of information within the database. Programming continued to advance and soon methods previous completed by manual methods over long periods of time were completed in a fraction of previous efforts without fail.

This effort was also joined with advancements in graphical technology to display this data on a computer video screen instead of lines of green text and numbers. Vector-based graphics, together with enormous point databases, helped create large topographical and geographical maps for many uses. During the same time the US put a man on the moon, mapping and platting of topographic information was also out of this world.

The turn of the century brings big changes

For the next decade, there were small advances in technology for topographic surveys and data points, but most were in presentation of data and increases in computing power. Pen plotters and smaller yet more powerful computers were becoming affordable to smaller companies, but it was still a large investment to get into the computerized data game for a surveyor. By the mid-1980s, electronic data collection with a total station was becoming the norm, but only meant collecting more points in a more efficient timeframe. The computing component did get faster but is still producing the same information of static data points.

Ancient techniques and new technologies (Image:

Ancient techniques and new technologies (Image:

The mid-1980s also brought us a shiny new object: GPS technology. By the end of the 1990s, we were able to get out of our vehicle, start the receiver and collect geolocated points in minutes rather than hours. The big takeaway from this advancement is the geolocation component of the data point. Now everything can be related to one big dataset of topographical points. By creating a database with all our project data collected in the same georeferenced datums (horizontal & vertical), we can create digital models that replicate existing conditions.

We can also add another big advancement in data collection: remote sensing technology. From laser and lidar scanners, photogrammetry, SLAM technology and ground penetrating radar, the innovations to collect data at locations we can “see” through sensing are now a reality. Another significant improvement with this technology is the amount of data points remote sensing can collect, both in timing and spacing. We are now talking small scanning projects that consist of billions of points within the site point cloud. We are fortunate that our computing power and storage capabilities has increased exponentially along with the remote sensing. (Remember doing a “regen” on your CAD file and having time to get a cup of coffee?)

Lots of data — now what?

Data is powerful, especially when it is harnessed in a robust system that can analyze and model for future use. Yes, this condition also applies to the surveying world, even though you may not be thinking about it now. We can use this data to create a virtual world that mimics the one we live in; the difference is that we exist in ours yet model and manipulate the digital version in our computer system. The technology is now available, and we can make a replica of our current world; however, why would we want to do that? There are lots of reasons to use technology and data to make sophisticated topographic maps (because that is what they are) for recording the world around us.

One of the big differences now is that we have much more information about the data points we collect within our topographic maps. Sure, many surveyors will say that their data has not changed or evolved during their careers, but they would be wrong. Unless they are still manually writing it all down for hand plotting… (Hello! The 1960s called, and they want their field book back!) Every electronically collected point has attributes associated with the data.

These attributes, while they may be simple, contain important information about the datapoint it represents. Horizontal location? Check. Vertical elevation? Check. Assigned point number? Probably. Field code? Most likely. But it also has one other important component: time. We now know exactly when that point was collected. Why is that important?

Because, like a lot of instances, things change. Something collected today might not be there tomorrow. Time is just as important as the physical location and the type of point it represents.

Gather these points together, throw them in one big model and you have yourself a graphical database that can be analyzed, reviewed, and used for planning and design. It may be hard to visualize with just simple survey data using GNSS and/or a total station, but couple it with a scanner or photogrammetry, you have a powerful hunk of data for which to work.

Why is this workflow and modeling procedure important enough to dedicate an entire column about surveying and GNSS to? Because it used to be far in the future, but the need and availability to use it is now here in front of us. Surveying and GNSS are an important part of this effort to create three dimensional models. By using survey-grade data in conjunction with point clouds collected from remote sensing equipment, we can replicate the world around us in real time.

Yes, Virginia, there is a name for the modeling process…

At Intergeo 2019, Bentley Systems will be focusing on digital construction, digital cities, reality modeling and civil design. (Photo:


The name for the proposed modeling of this dataset is a digital twin. It represents a digital representation of a physical object or system. NASA famously used the concept for their space program to simulate situations and procedures of many different types of events. The concept has grown with the technology to graphically create almost anything through digitalization and computer modeling. Once the model is created, both actual and proposed data points can be included to represent the existing and future opportunities.

The idea of a digital twin is not new; technology, however, has pumped more life into its existence by leaps and bounds with computing power and data storage capability. I remember, early in my career, going into an architect’s office and seeing the scale model mockup of a new development or building. The streets in the model were perfect, there were no drainage issues, and it was a neat as a pin. Fast forward to the construction of the development and field changes were at every turn. A digital twin will allow for better planning, more thorough design and creating more cost-effective development. Many large cities have started compiling data and building their digital twin, including New York, Singapore, Boston, and Rotterdam. Engineering and planning for new and replacement facilities is very expensive yet analysts predict that having a digital twin to work will save a significant amount of money and time.

As a surveyor, what’s in it for me?

Software capability for the surveyor is already here. Companies, such as Hexagon, Trimble, Topcon and Esri to name a few, have been developing their software to accommodate this concept for many years. Still, lots of surveyors do not know about it. And we should. Many of us live in places where the infrastructure is well past its useful life period and should have been replaced long ago. By starting now with survey-grade data to be put into a real-time model, we can help our governmental agencies and their consultants to move towards a digital twin that will ultimately save money and possibly lives.

What this means for the surveyor is to further embrace technology and include remote sensing into your operation. If you have not started at least looking into UAVs and photogrammetry, you are already behind. Many aerial operations are making the next leap into mounting a LiDAR unit on their UAV to gain even more capability. Early adopters of laser scanners were probably second guessing their decision during the 2008 Depression but if they stayed with it, it will be a big payoff in the long run. The next leap will be into handheld scanning devices, including ones using SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping) technology for locating interior and close-up improvements. These technologies will cost a significant amount of time and money to implement but municipalities, engineers and architects are going to be clamoring for the data any day now.

When it comes to surveying and mapping of existing facilities, the surveyor and technology makes a great team. Do not let point clouds, remote sensing, or terabytes of data scare you away from providing badly needed information to help assemble your local digital twin. In the long run, it will pay off for all who take on the challenge of building it.

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KVH inertial sensor integrates photonic chip technology

New patented PIC Inside technology is designed to enhance inertial sensor performance and reliability for the growing autonomous market

Photo: KVH

Photo: KVH

KVH Industries has launched the P-1775 inertial measurement unit (IMU), featuring KVH’s new PIC Inside photonic integrated chip (PIC) technology.

KVH has been developing and testing the technology for more than three years and is now incorporating it into existing product lines. The first units have started shipping.

One of the first customers has integrated the P-1775 IMU into its next-generation rocket launch vehicle.

KVH’s PIC Inside technology features an integrated planar optical chip that replaces individual fiber-optic components to simplify production while maintaining or improving accuracy and performance.

The PIC Inside product is designed to deliver 20 times higher accuracy than less expensive MEMS inertial measurement units, uses modular designs for ease of integration, and has outstanding repeatability unit-to-unit.

“I applaud the tremendous effort by our incredible engineers in developing this groundbreaking technology and I am thrilled that we have begun to incorporate PIC Inside technology into our existing products, a process that we expect to continue throughout the year,” said Martin Kits van Heyningen, KVH CEO.

The PIC technology will be added to KVH’s inertial sensor product line for use across a broad range of applications from navigation to stabilization and pointing. KVH’s fiber-optic gyros (FOGs) and FOG-based products are particularly well-suited for the large and growing autonomous market. This market includes applications on land, sea and air, such as drones, people movers, trucks, and mining and construction equipment.

Autonomous applications rely on high-quality inertial sensors to deliver an extremely accurate navigation solution, delivering the performance required in critical metrics such as angle random walk (ARW) and bias instability.

Next-generation driverless cars, which require centimeter-level precision for safety, are the ideal application for KVH’s inertial products, KVH said. Employing the PIC design allows for a lower cost and scalable solution due to the elimination of various fiber components and a reduction of labor.

In 2019, KVH delivered its first product prototypes containing PIC technology to automotive customers and presented the science behind the technology to an audience of engineers at an inertial sensor conference, describing the extensive development, testing, and benefits of the new technology.

KVH is a leading innovator for assured navigation and autonomous accuracy using high-performance sensors and integrated inertial systems. KVH’s widely fielded TACNAV systems are in use by the U.S. Army and Marine Corps as well as many allied militaries around the world. KVH’s FOGs and FOG-based IMUs are in use today in a wide variety of applications ranging from optical, antenna and sensor stabilization systems to mobile mapping solutions and autonomous platforms and cars.