RTK for less than $1,000?

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paulhmabry
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RTK for less than $1,000?

Post by paulhmabry »

I ran across this company offering an RTK GNSS Engine capable of centimeter level positioning for less than the cost of many smart phones. With antennae and radios, the a single setup would be about $500.
Link here:
https://www.sparkfun.com/products/17369

Anyone have any experience using one of these or one like them? At this price point, I expect a lot of future mischief from non-professionals and para professionals.
-Paul
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Jim Frame
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Re: RTK for less than $1,000?

Post by Jim Frame »

I would be extremely wary of using this for any important measurements, even if you could get it into field-usable form. While it appears to be an interesting science experiment, there's a whole lot more that goes into reliable GNSS positioning than an RF board in a nifty enclosure.
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subman
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Re: RTK for less than $1,000?

Post by subman »

They have taken the next steps.

Base and rover: https://www.sparkfun.com/products/19984

With L-Band corrections: https://www.sparkfun.com/products/20000
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Re: RTK for less than $1,000?

Post by DWoolley »

paulhmabry wrote: Mon Dec 07, 2020 12:29 pm ...
Anyone have any experience using one of these or one like them? At this price point, I expect a lot of future mischief from non-professionals and para professionals.
-Paul
A coworker mentioned this post yesterday during a meeting. We may purchase a unit simply to satisfy our curiosity by comparing it to our Trimble units.

Paul is correct to predict "future mischief" from non-professionals. We have been venturing outside of the professional circles with land surveying adjacent work and found "GNSS" is applied synonymously with 1cm accuracy.

Frankly, the technology available is incredible and promises the users fast, easy to use, accuracy. We have licensed surveyors that would swear on a stack of bibles their RTN-GPS is accurate within 0.03' - can we honestly expect the unlicensed public to know otherwise?

I have said it in many forums, any surveyors that think they will be paid to do construction staking - outside of specialty situations - or topography i.e. top of curb, flow line, lip in the future are in for a surprise. Our phones will simply quit ringing. I have had several equipment vendors (survey adjacent) that have recently sold several hundred measuring units to locate and map "fixed works embraced in the practice of civil engineering" to folks that are not land surveyors or engineers.

Catch a glimpse of the future here:

https://youtu.be/PdQsy4rK8t4

Watch the video long enough to see him position his targets with a phone, laser and rtk unit in one. A common phone provides the LiDAR scans for obscured areas.

Barrier to entry, none. Anyone think the public will pay $320 for a two person crew for topography? Don't bet on it.

DWoolley
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Re: RTK for less than $1,000?

Post by mpallamary »

The death knell sounds.
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Re: RTK for less than $1,000?

Post by DWoolley »

It has been more than 10 years since I read the measurement is dead article. Then and now, I believe it is accurate. The final leg to the reality of the prognostication of measurement is dead is a recession. That shoe will drop soon and land surveyors making their living exclusively measuring will evaporate.

A few facts forum readers might find of interest:

1. There have been four "deep" recessions in the last 50 years, 1972, 1980, 1990 and 2008. The deep recession is marked by three consecutive years of decreasing field surveying hours recorded. There were another three instances in which there were two consecutive years of job loses 1987, 2002 and ?.

2. The average field surveyor job loss over those four recessions, measured in hours based on 2000 hours annually, according to recorded union hours, was 74.5% with 2008 marking an 89% loss.

3. The average is a recession every 12 years. The number of years to recover those lost jobs, 7. Noting only twice were all lost jobs recovered - it took 20 years 1977 to 1999.

During the next recession, the contractors should be able finally close the loop with technology and self perform most of their own construction staking - allowing them to low bid their own work. Locally, the latest workaround is to hire a licensed union party chief and dispatch crews to the contractor. This cuts the contractors cost by almost half.

As shown in the video above, a phone and drone or canned LiDAR imagery will slowly take away field time acquiring data.

Upside, credentialed folks with an LSIT and ultimately, a PLS should be fine. Their work will include supervision of measurers that may not be employees or folks that make their living "surveying".

Let it said, let it be done. Tomorrow there will be a Ten Minute Surveyor video on the effects of a recession on a field only surveyor with little to no office related skills.

DWoolley
Last edited by DWoolley on Mon Aug 08, 2022 12:41 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: RTK for less than $1,000?

Post by mpallamary »

Yes indeed! What is disturbing is the absence of qualified boundary surveyors out there. I offer that under the probability that someone will curse me. The first time I presented my paper to CALTRANS, there was shock throughout the room.
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Re: RTK for less than $1,000?

Post by DWoolley »

Every land surveyor believes they are qualified to determine a boundary. Very few land surveyors yield to an area of competence. They often do know that which they do not know i.e. Dunning-Kruger effect. They actually go one step further and believe they are good at boundary determination.

Keep in mind, several jurisdictions allow land surveyors to hold any two monuments to determine a boundary. In the unfortunate circumstance additional monuments are recovered, well, simply call them out of position from the record math. Frankly, I wouldn't take issue with any layperson or contractor doing the same. We cannot hold the public hostage by claiming the placement of geometry on the ground.

DWoolley
Last edited by DWoolley on Mon Aug 08, 2022 1:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: RTK for less than $1,000?

Post by mpallamary »

Well said. Indeed, well said.
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Re: RTK for less than $1,000?

Post by DWoolley »

DWoolley wrote: Mon Aug 08, 2022 12:28 pm ...
During the next recession, the contractors should be able finally close the loop with technology and self perform most of their own construction staking - allowing them to low bid their own work. Locally, the latest workaround is to hire a licensed union party chief and dispatch crews to the contractor. This cuts the contractors cost by almost half.
...
DWoolley
I was not entirely clear in my writing.

Locally, the contractors form a joint venture (JV) for large projects. The JV is signatory with Operating Engineers. The JV finds a licensed land surveyor (a more recent development after the Kiewit self performing land surveying debacle on the 405 in LA) that is a union party chief and hires the surveyor as an employee. The surveyor employee is in responsible charge. The union sends/dispatches their union "surveyors" directly to the job/contractor. There is no land surveying/engineering company hired for surveying project - besides the initial control. This means the surveyors onsite, quite literally, work for wages.

Licensees in the union are as rare as hen's teeth, but they do exist.

Riddle yourself this, why would an engineering company be signatory to the union if they have to compete with a contractor for the same employees? Especially when balanced with the fact the engineering company has to carry several million dollars of unfunded pension liability on their books because they are signatory.

Quite interesting. I suppose this is the natural conclusion of the measurement folks. Thank Dog heavy construction wasn't part of my business model.

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Re: RTK for less than $1,000?

Post by Ric7308 »

DWoolley wrote: Mon Aug 08, 2022 5:07 pm ...
Locally, the contractors form a joint venture (JV) for large projects. The JV is signatory with Operating Engineers. The JV finds a licensed land surveyor (a more recent development after the Kiewit self performing land surveying debacle on the 405 in LA) that is a union party chief and hires the surveyor as an employee. The surveyor employee is in responsible charge. The union sends/dispatches their union "surveyors" directly to the job/contractor. There is no land surveying/engineering company hired for surveying project - besides the initial control. This means the surveyors onsite, quite literally, work for wages.

DWoolley
I know Dave knows this, so putting this out there for everyone else. The scenario that he describes is still a violation of the statutes since the "employed licensed union party chief" is not a partner, officer, or owner of the firm (or JV) making the offer and the contract is likely not being executed by that "employee" or other person authorized to make that offer.
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Re: RTK for less than $1,000?

Post by DWoolley »

After doing the research, I bought the higher end of the units initially posted by Paul Mabry above.

It is my understanding the data can be post processed.

Am I staring straight into the eye of the Reaper that will definitively mark the BCE and CE of measurement? Or, in the alternative, will I be the person standing on Broadway with a "the end is here" placard that is common to every turn of the century?

I will report back.

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David Kendall
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Re: RTK for less than $1,000?

Post by David Kendall »

DWoolley wrote: Sat Aug 06, 2022 5:25 am
Catch a glimpse of the future here:

https://youtu.be/PdQsy4rK8t4

Watch the video long enough to see him position his targets with a phone, laser and rtk unit in one. A common phone provides the LiDAR scans for obscured areas.

Barrier to entry, none. Anyone think the public will pay $320 for a two person crew for topography? Don't bet on it.

DWoolley
I watched the video. This makes me feel pretty silly doing a conventional topographic survey with a total station.

Assuming the RTK drone is redundant with accurate ground control points, this entire data collection kit could be purchased for under $10k which is around 1/5 of the cost of a new Trimble scanning total station with similar capabilities. It won't take me long to confirm that the positional accuracy is suitable for survey grade mapping with a bit of care applied and a few spot checks.

Pix4D is testing positional accuracy. See link below. The RTK iPhone lidar scanner is running around 5 cm or better. I wonder when they will get better?

https://s3.amazonaws.com/mics.pix4d.com ... _PAPER.pdf
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Re: RTK for less than $1,000?

Post by mpallamary »

Measurement is Dead.

If we can be replaced, we will be. Are you offering a commodity or a professional service?

Are you studying satellite arrays or boundary surveying?
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Re: RTK for less than $1,000?

Post by Jim Frame »

Are you studying satellite arrays or boundary surveying?
These days you need to study both, unless you only work in small-tract (e.g. urban) areas. Rural boundary surveys using only terrestrial measurement tools are no longer cost-effective, at least here in the flatlands.
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Re: RTK for less than $1,000?

Post by mpallamary »

I agree. The question was rhetorical. It is inevitable that the technology will become self-adjusting and automated. I remember when EDM's first came out. We didn't trust the measurements so we measured conventionally for awhile until our trust developed. When we used to use the old Distomat, there was a lot of equipment calibration and spinning of dials.

My point is with AI and automated adjustments, it is inevitable that we will pay less attention to satellite arrays and the like. They have handheld GPS devices that my granddaughter can operate. As they continue to refine the technologies, we will end up with RTK for less than $1,000. It will get even cheaper. Science will move forward on its own. The evolution will occur by necessity. I drive a self-driving car.

I remember chaining with a three person crew, at 20 degrees below zero in a snowstorm with plumb bobs and coming back when it was 100 degrees out, and we had to make a number of adjustments and measuring calibrations. We welcomed the introduction of electronic measuring equipment.

Change is coming. My question is are we, as a profession prepared? We are no long the Masters of Measurement.
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Re: RTK for less than $1,000?

Post by mpallamary »

Curt Brown and I used to talk about the evolution of surveying equipment. He felt the same why I did. Maybe I got it from him. Equipment will constantly change. He felt the profession did not keep up with boundary work and analysis.

These are always fun to look at.
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Re: RTK for less than $1,000?

Post by DWoolley »

I have a coworker that attends conferences that center on GIS (ESRI), URISA, and underground utility location (Utility Engineering & Surveying Institute (UESI) this week).

Each conference this year has had multiple presenters stating they no longer rely on land surveyors/surveying. In fact, this morning Phil Meis, author of the ASCE 75-22 underground utility standards, said to a room full of conference attendees "The guy with the rod is going away". That actually means you/us.

In October there is a URISA conference in Boise. On the agenda is amending the model law to allow the GIS folks to perform land surveying that is currently protected in California. Do not count on BPELSG saving you - it's not their job. Luckily, there are some California licensees that will be in attendance and a couple of ESRI folks that will advocate for the land surveying profession. Be clear, there are legions of these GIS and underground folks with the backing of the equipment vendors.

Whadda you gonna do? Personally, I had some ideas to regulate land surveyors into the new markets with hopes of the land surveying community adapting (accuracy statements and laws that clearly separate us from them). Besides the horse to water thing, the plan may not have worked anyway. Forever tilting windmills, the optimist in me had to try. Some readers may remember the unaffected elder naysayers that would rather ride the land surveying ship to the deregulation bottom. Alas, I am moving to join them - if we are to be essentially wiped out en mass I would prefer it to be quickly and mercifully.

The younger unlicensed folks - most particularly the field experience only types - might want to prepare by leaning out of a window and rehearsing "would you like fries with that today?" and scheduling more regular dinners with their folks so it will be less of a shock to them when asking to move back home.

DWoolley
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Re: RTK for less than $1,000?

Post by mpallamary »

Well said Dave! Very well said!
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Re: RTK for less than $1,000?

Post by mpallamary »

Recently I was asked, “What one thing, above all others, does the land surveyor offer?” My answer is knowledge. Many people can measure; few have sufficient knowledge to know where and what to measure.

In 1933 when I graduated from college, I had what was considered an excellent education. Photogrammetry was barely mentioned. I was not exposed to matrix problems. Of course, we used logs to solve all of our problems. Hand crank calculators were the best available. Unknown and uninvented were the electronic-measuring devices and electronic computers. We were taught that the atom was the smallest particle. Protons were unknown. By today’s academic standards we were undereducated in the sciences and overeducated in how to do its subjects. The one redeeming feature of the time was that students were taught how to use instruments.
Things change. I recently took time to study some of my old records in retrospect. I found sheet after sheet of traverse computations with sine, cosine, bearing, distance, latitude, departure, double meridian distances and area all neatly tabulated by hand. Out of curiosity, I took one complex traverse, ran it through my electronic computer and found that I could do the job in one - tenth of the time shown on my old time sheets.

Some years ago we “brushed” a line one-mile long and measured it all in two days with three men. A short time ago we remeasured the same line with modern equipment and knowledge and found that it could be done in one-half hour with two men. We also found a small error in our original work.

The moral to this story is that if we try to do today’s job with yesterday’s knowledge, we will be out of business tomorrow.
It is my opinion that the half-life of my college education was ten years; that is, half of what I learned in science and engineering was obsolete or insufficient ten years later. No man in business can afford to stand still; he either gains knowledge by continual study or he falls to the wayside. Ignorance is voluntary misfortune.

My father was a surveyor; he almost graduated from grammar school in the late 1800s. His quest for knowledge began in a strange way. He was a chainman on a railroad gang. He also loved to hunt. His prized possession was a red-ticked hound of considerable tracking ability. The hound, called “Red,” always followed dad wherever he went. In those days in California, most quarter and section corners were redwood posts. It was not long before the hound found out what my dad was looking for; the dog would quarter ahead, find the post, and, like all good hounds, leave a moist spot and bugle “tree.” Soon the Brown family prospered; the business of locating section corners by contract flourished. We graduated from beans to white rice and cake. But our good fortune vanished, when I, in my youthful ignorance, taught old “Red” to retrieve sticks. Nothing could break him of the habit of bringing the section posts back to the master. In one contract where dad was supposed to locate all of the posts in a township, he arrived early, set up camp and bedded down for the night. In the morning, when he woke up, at the foot of his cot were all of the section posts; old “Red” had retrieved them all during the night. Dad was like the grain of wheat that got reaped. He had found a gimmick that worked for a while, but in the long run real knowledge was needed to stay in business. It was then that dad decided that he had to take some correspondence courses to learn how to survey. I have always admired him for completing an ICS course in surveying. Man should be like the lowly crab; he should be able to move backward, forward, or sideways. If things change, as they have in the last decade, man should move with the changes. If newer knowledge is needed, surveyors should acquire it. My dad taught me one thing: Never hunt for a corner in the township where old “Red” retrieved. Knowledge of the past history of an area plus modern knowledge of surveying are the tools of the surveyor.

SURVEYORS SERVICE TO SOCIETY

By Curtis M. Brown, Licensed Land Surveyor, San Diego California, September 1971
DWoolley
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Re: RTK for less than $1,000?

Post by DWoolley »

David Kendall wrote: Wed Aug 24, 2022 1:42 pm
DWoolley wrote: Sat Aug 06, 2022 5:25 am
Catch a glimpse of the future here:

https://youtu.be/PdQsy4rK8t4

Watch the video long enough to see him position his targets with a phone, laser and rtk unit in one. A common phone provides the LiDAR scans for obscured areas.

Barrier to entry, none. Anyone think the public will pay $320 for a two person crew for topography? Don't bet on it.

DWoolley
I watched the video. This makes me feel pretty silly doing a conventional topographic survey with a total station.
...
Surveyors performing topography will be your "walking to school uphill both ways in snow" story. No different than my chaining or slope staking or using a Lenker rod or topographic data collection by stationing down centerline setting a "good" nail every 100 feet and rag taping with a right angle prism recorded on cross-section paper stories.

Get it while you can, so said Janice.

DWoolley
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Re: RTK for less than $1,000?

Post by mpallamary »

Yup!
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Re: RTK for less than $1,000?

Post by DWoolley »

Update:

Today I received a partial brief on the underground utility conference in Denver this week.

Among the discussions was the fact California is reportedly the only state in the union that requires a geophysicist to report depths of utilities using GPR and EM locators. I believe there is an exemption for Professional Engineers to function as geophysicist, don't quote me though.

More interesting to me is a discussion about creating a separate land surveying license that allows practitioners to perform spacial work (topography, staking, etc) but does not allow "metes and bounds" - they actually meant to say boundary. I believe this may already exist in the Model Law. There are states that already do not consider construction staking and topography exclusive to the practice of land surveying.

The SUE folks include engineers. I believe the engineers will support this deregulation of the California protected practice of land surveying. Lucky for the engineers, the land surveyors are unlikely put up much of a struggle.

To tie this post into the original thread...engineers will be happy to get out of the unfunded union pension liability and get some inexpensive GPS equipment. Bet I could convince an engineer on the need for accuracy statements if it meant securing future work in the industry.

DWoolley
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Steve Martin
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Re: RTK for less than $1,000?

Post by Steve Martin »

I was at the 2017 UESI conference in Pomona where Ric Moore told some of those out of state geophysical investigation presenters that they had to be licensed in California. Kind of blew their minds.

Who knows the number of licensed geophysicists in California? (It is a very very low number)
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