Land levelling contractors and tile drainage installers often experience 25 percent downtime due to weak or lost RTK signals. That equates to 75 percent uptime, which is unacceptable by anyone’s standard.
Jarette Lawfield, a land levelling contractor in Catron, Missouri, runs six units as many hours per day as possible.
Some of that equipment sits idle five or six hours a day in the summer because he doesn’t have the necessary vertical GPS accuracy needed to complete finish passes.
“Sometimes all we need is the finish pass, but we have to stop and wait. I can’t get onto the next job since I’m waiting for the vertical accuracy to do finishing passes,” Lawfield said.
“GPS is good enough for bulk hauling the dirt, but you’ve got to be more accurate for the finishing work. That’s where the GPS really failed us. You waste a lot of money just sitting and waiting for the signal.
“Good vertical accuracy makes the whole project more efficient, from bulk hauling to finishing passes. The more accurate bulk hauling is, the less work to be done while finishing.”
Lawfield installed prototype versions of Trimble’s new VerticalPoint RTK on three of his rigs in June. Trimble claims the new system can increase uptime to approximately 95 percent. Plus, this increase holds true even in the most challenging months of the year.
Lawfield said it seems like a valid claim.
“With the new system, we set up one base station and two supplemental rovers helping correct the signal to the machine controllers on your equipment. They have the geometry to provide accurate vertical information,” he said.
“We have mainly small fields here. Some are 40 acres. You can get by with just one rover on those, and you’ll still get some benefit. But mainly they’re 80 acres. That’s a half-mile by a quarter-mile. They set up pretty quickly.
“If I leave the tripods in place overnight, and just take away the RTK, I can set it up the next morning and it’s ready to get to work in two or three minutes. That’s all it takes for the rovers to re-converge.”
Trimble says that in some instances contractors even need to rework bulk hauling components that were incorrectly levelled before the vertical signal inconsistency was discovered.
The company says its VerticalPoint RTK reduces vertical design errors that occur from inconsistent vertical GPS signals resulting from atmospheric interference.
VerticalPoint RTK is available as an unlock on FmX integrated and TMX-2050 displays and works in combination with the FieldLevel II system, which streamlines the required survey, design and levelling steps. VerticalPoint RTK includes two stationary supplemental rovers for live, dynamic data collection.