How To Invest in Latest GPS Signal Technology

Kurt Lawton

With the rapidly changing GPS/GNSS satellite technology, it’s smart to do your homework and understand the facts to find what best suits your farm (see the links below). Auburn University’s Daniel Mullenix, a research biosystems engineer, offered his advice recently on

When considering purchasing GPS/GNSS technology for your ag operation, it’s best to do your homework. As with most technology, Precision Ag technology is rapidly evolving and changing to better suit the needs of producers and allow them to become more efficient and better stewards of the environment.

The “buzz” words and hot topics of a few years ago may now have been replaced with “later and greater” gadgets. This is the case with GPS/GNSS technology. Recently, new signals have been established such as L2C and L5, which increase reliability of navigation and guidance operations. Likewise, manufacturers of guidance and navigational devices are now producing units capable of utilizing other countries satellite systems in conjunction with GPS. For example, several manufacturers make guidance receivers that are GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) capable; meaning they can utilize US GPS satellites as well as others (e.g. Russia’s GLONASS satellite system, etc).

This technology holds great advantages in that a GNSS receiver can utilize almost twice the number of satellites a GPS-only receiver is able to use. Additionally, cellular modems can now be used to obtain base station data via CORS (Continuously Operating Reference Stations) or RTN (Real-Time Networks); increasing a producer’s distance from a base station from line-of-sight to over 25 miles when using RTK.

More satellite availability, new GPS signals, and cellular technology potentially means:

  • less time for an RTK fix
  • not having to wait for satellites to come into view
  • not losing an RTK fix when against a tree line or other obstructions
  • not having down time during hours of the day when GPS satellite geometry is poor
  • increased distances from a base station
  • no need for a personal base station
  • greater mobility and efficiency

When investing in GPS/GNSS technology, consider:

  • Is this system best for my operation, considering what’s on the market (GPS vs. GNSS, personal base station vs. CORS of RTN)?
  • Will this system utilize other countries satellite systems so I get maximum satellite coverage?
  • Can this system employ new GPS satellite signals (L2C and L5) so I get maximum reliability?
  • Will this system allow me to be as mobile as I need to be (line-of-sight vs. 25-mile distance from a base station with a cellular modem)?
  • Can I receive firmware updates for this system so I stay abreast of evolving technology?

For more information, visit
and see: Update on GPS: New Civilian Accessible Signals – L1C, L2C, and L5, Update on GPS: Explanation of GNSS, and RTK Networks: Cellular Modem Communication Technology.