Reducing risks from GPS glitches


Having a Plan B in mind for minimizing the effects of breakdowns of mission-critical equipment is sound business. But Plan B is becoming more complicated as systems get more sophisticated.


Such is the case with automated steering and other technologies that rely on GPS and other satellite navigation systems. Although these navigation systems are highly reliable, it’s wise to have a backup plan to allow you to keep working if glitches erode accuracy or temporarily shut them down altogether. That’s the advice from John Fulton, a precision ag specialist at Auburn University.


Orbit problems in the spring of 2010 with satellites that relay WAAS correction signals highlight what can happen when critical parts of navigation systems go awry. Because of the unexpected orbit shift, some navigation receivers weren’t able to receive WAAS corrections. For some, this reduced accuracy during planting.


Although the WAAS orbit challenge was unexpected, Fulton says two known risk factors are on the horizon. “We aren’t replacing GPS satellites quickly enough to maintain the proper satellite replacement schedule,” he says. “And we could have sunspot activity in the coming years that could have profound effects.” More information on both topics is available here and here.


So keep your planter row markers greased and the foam markers on your sprayer in working order.


“In terms of correction services having issues, I suggest considering having the ability to use two potential different services,” he says. “For example, someone running an RTK network correction wants the ability to switch to another RTK service (possibly a single base station) or use a less accurate correction service.”

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