RTK … An Introduction

Melissa SandfortAg Leader, Education, GPS, Insights Weekly

When it comes to precision agriculture, it’s quite simple to get lost in the technical terms, the acronyms, and the sea of capabilities available. So today, Ag Leader Technology is helping to decipher, in layman’s terms, Real Time Kinematic, or RTK.

The quick answer is: It’s still GPS, it’s just more accurate. It’s a differential correction system capable of sub-inch repeatable and pass-to-pass accuracy. Traditionally, it has required a base station within several miles of your rover.

Now here’s the longer answer:

Insights WeeklyMaybe Differential GPS (DGPS) isn’t accurate enough for your farming operation. In the past, RTK has been prohibitive for some agricultural applications due to the cost or because the rover has to be fairly close to the base station in order to get a clear signal. But now, by having an Internet connection at your base station, or by using a base station network such as CORS (Continuously Operating Reference Stations), and a cell phone in your rover (with a monthly data plan), you can get a clear RTK signal within 6 miles from your base station (some locations aren’t limited by distance). RTK signals are transmitted via radio, high-speed wireless and Internet.

Here’s what you need:
• A dual frequency GPS receiver. Data is transmitted from the base station to your receiver once per second.
• Your own base station, or there is a network of base stations available for you to use (such as a CORS network)

Here’s what you get:
• Sub-inch accuracy (+/- 1 inch as compared to +/- 6 inches with DGPS)
• Increased profits (get an increased payback through increased area covered per hour, reduced time spent in the field, fuel savings, minimizing labor costs and time savings)
• Increased time-savings
• Reduced skip and overlap
• Reliability, speed and repeatable solutions, meaning you can drive the same row pass-to-pass, year-to-year.

Making the investment in RTK means equipment can be driven more efficiently for longer periods of times with less fatigue.

So what kind of applications can benefit from RTK? Strip tillage and other types of precision fertilizer placement, laying drop irrigation tape, or planting and harvest of high-value crops such as potatoes, peanuts and cotton. And of course, contact your Ag Leader dealer (http://www.agleader.com/dealer-search/) to see what is right for your needs.

Click here for additional information or for a CORS article in Ag Leader’s March 2010 Insights Newsletter.