A screen shot of Trimble's SCS900 software at work

A screen shot of Trimble's SCS900 software at work

With an ever-increasing number of options on the ground for putting them to good use, this is a field where technology is continuing to move forward at a fast pace – and GPS (Global Positioning System) is just a part of it.

GPS comes under the umbrella of GNSS, which stands for Global Navigation Satellite System.

The European Union (EU) agency in charge of this is the European GNSS Agency (GSA), formerly known as the European GNSS Supervisory Authority.

While it was previously headquartered provisionally in Brussels, Belgium, the GSA moved to the Czech capital Prague last summer, and its role is to ensure security of satellites and prepare ground for new GNSS products.

It is also responsible for a number of implementation tasks for the European Satellite Navigation programmes Galileo and EGNOS (European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service), which are managed by the European Commission.

One of its main tasks is security – security accreditation of satellites, launchers, sites and so on, plus the operation of the Galileo Security Monitoring Centre.

Another of its important tasks, though, is the market development of the European satellite navigation systems. One example of this is with the new products and services that are possible through using internet access to satellite navigation data.

In July, the European Commission launched the European Data Access Service (EDAS) – a new commercial service of EGNOS.

It said EDAS was designed to make satellite navigation in Europe more reliable and, therefore, more effective for use by commercial applications, which it added would help companies develop more advanced products.

EDAS is designed to support new services in a number of different sectors such as agriculture, transport and, significantly for the construction industry, mapping. Many applications are possible and companies are encouraged to develop new products and services with the help of the free EU EDAS service.

Data via the internet

Key to this is the fact that GPS data can now be obtained via the internet in addition to access via the existing satellite signal.

Access to GPS data will also be possible via hand-held devices, using wireless communication from added-value service providers.

One of the most important points is that EGNOS is said to increase GPS accuracy and it supports applications requiring high precision by correcting errors that can be caused by atmospheric disturbance factors.

As it makes GPS data available via the internet, EDAS ensures that users can access EGNOS information even if the EGNOS satellite signal in space is unavailable – this could be, for example, because of signal obstruction in urban areas.

EDAS provides the same information as EGNOS, with the addition of extra data, enabling the creation of new and innovative products and services. EDAS provides a reliable service and the European Commission has said it was fully committed to the service on a long-term basis.

European Commission vice president Antonio Tajani, responsible for industry and entrepreneurship, said, “This third EGNOS service once again proves the European Commission’s commitment to delivering improved services to the EU’s businesses and citizens."

He added, “So much of our day-to-day private and business lives are dependent on satellite navigation technology. With EDAS, we have a reliable performance level which can, in turn, support the creation of new and innovative products and thus help to overcome the current economic crisis.”

The EDAS Service is provided by ESSP (EGNOS Service Provider) under a contract with the European Commission.

EGNOS is said to be the first pan-European satellite-based augmentation system, though similar services are already provided in North America by the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) and in Japan by the Multifunctional Satellite Augmentation System (MSAS).

EGNOS is Europe’s first contribution to satellite navigation and is the precursor to Galileo.

There are 40 ranging and integrity monitoring stations (RIMS) spread across Europe to receive signals from US GPS satellites.

Four mission control centres handle data processing and differential corrections counting, while six navigation land earth stations manage accuracy and reliability data sent to the three satellite transponders, for relay to end-user devices.

Satellites launched

The Galileo programme is moving ahead. After a successful first launch of two satellites on 21 October, 2011, the “In-Orbit Validation” phase is following the launch of two more satellites from Europe’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, which took place on 12 October, 2012.

From 2013, the deployment of the satellite infrastructure will speed up, with several launches a year until the full constellation of 30 satellites – which includes six in-orbit spares – is reached before the end of the decade.

Back on the ground, things are moving quickly too.

Making the most of the satellites and their capabilities is important, and two leading names in positioning technology have decided to get together with software companies – Trimble with Bentley Systems, and Topcon Positioning with Autodesk.

The strategic alliance between Trimble and Bentley is said to enable intelligent positioning for large infrastructure project sites, offering quality, efficiency and safety.

The companies claimed that by working together and using “advanced information mobility innovations”, the exchange of physical and virtual data could be used more easily by engineers and contractors to reduce project risk while increasing overall productivity.

Seamless exchange

They promised “a seamless exchange of information between the virtual and physical can be achieved by using a selection of Trimble’s field positioning technologies – such as robotic total stations, 3D laser scanners and GNSS positioning solutions – and Bentley’s information modelling software”.

The two companies added that work sharing and dynamic feedback would be managed in Bentley’s ProjectWise software.

Topcon Positioning Systems and Autodesk plan to collaborate to allow products within Autodesk’s design and construction software portfolio for Building Information Modeling (BIM) to interact more efficiently with Topcon’s on-site field positioning hardware.

This collaboration too is designed to allow building and civil infrastructure construction customers to form a tighter, more seamless workflow that will increase on-site worker productivity, enhance field safety, and improve quality control.

Announcing the new tie up, Ewout Korpershoek, senior vice president product management and marketing at Topcon, said, “It is our mission to provide our customers with state of the art positioning solutions that allow for highest efficiency data collection, data management and layout.

“Through our collaboration with Autodesk, we will be able to streamline the data flow between design and execution via a seamless connection between the office and site, providing the highest degree of accuracy and productivity,” he said.

New and updated equipment is always available, too. In November, Trimble introduced version 3.0 of its SCS900 Site Controller Software for measurement, stakeout, quality control and progress monitoring on the heavy civil construction jobsite.

The company claimed that version 3.0 featured a clean, simple and updated user interface which had been designed for maximum readability and usability, and workflow simplification improvements that increased productivity.

Trimble SCS900 Site Controller Software is said to combine simplicity and efficiency to reduce the time required to access even the most complex functionality.

The company pointed out that whether users were measuring, staking or performing advanced in-field design calculations, it would never take more than three screen taps to access any feature in SCS900.

Clear, consistent navigation makes tasks more intuitive, according to Trimble, while an improved layout with large, graphical icons is said to have made functions easy to recognise.

Simplified views show all options on one screen to provide faster access to relevant content, and an enhanced, intuitive guidance system helps the user find stake points quickly and precisely.

Trimble claimed to have designed the SCS900 software so that efficiency gains began as the software launched in map view. It said that users could see where they were on the site immediately, viewing cut and fill information instantly, without any setup.

Panning and navigating across the map is by dragging a finger or a stylus across the screen. To switch between measuring and staking, users can tap and hold any point or line to stake it out.

In addition, they can customise the information bars to access and view critical information right from the map view and change languages on the fly without restarting the software.

Ultra compact

Topcon, meanwhile, has launched what it claimed was the industry’s lightest, ultra-compact dual-frequency positioning engine – the B110 GNSS receiver board.

The B110 is the first GNSS board with Topcon’s new Vanguard ASIC, supporting 226 universal channels for GPS, GLONASS and Galileo tracking, and scalable positioning from sub-metre DGPS to sub-centimetre RTK.

The B110 board’s small size, low power consumption and flexible communication interfaces is said to make it easy to integrate into any precise positioning application, reducing the time-to-market for OEM customers.

Among the features that the Topcon B110 GNSS receiver board claims to offer to help facilitate easy integration is a compact 40 x 55mm footprint with low power consumption. It also has 226 universal channels with GPS and GLONASS L1/L2, Galileo E1 and SBAS all-in-view tracking.

It has a high performance RTK engine and what Topcon claimed was industry-leading position update rate of 100Hz.

Topcon Europe Positioning’s new IP-S2 Compact+ is a mobile mapping system designed to measure objects accurately even in adverse weather conditions and enclosed job sites such as tunnels and mines.

Topcon’s IP-S2 was launched in 2009. It is a vehicle-mounted mobile mapping system incorporating high-precision GNSS receivers, IMU (inertial measurement unit), vehicle wheel encoders, 360° camera and laser scanners.

Topcon said this system had improved scanner orientation to optimise visibility of roadside assets, adding that it was packaged in an affordable, compact system that fits on a car or truck.

Product manager Sander Jongeleen said, “The full-colour, high-resolution, high-density point clouds dramatically increase efficiencies, for example in GIS (geographic information system) asset management such as utilities, and transportation work such as roads, highways, tunnels, and overpasses.”

The new Compact+ system is available in two configurations – a three-scanner standard model or a five-scanner system.

The three-scanner gives a 360° vertical field of view. The five-scanner system increases cloud density, minimises scanning shades, and collects 150,000 points per second with a range of 40 to 50m.

The IP-S2 Compact+ can be purchased with a high accuracy commercial grade or a tactical grade IMU.

Swedish agreement

Recently, Topcon Europe Positioning reached an agreement with Lantmäteriverket, which is the administrator of SWEPOS, a national network of permanent reference stations for GPS in Sweden. The agreement will allow Topcon to roll out a TopNET live service in Sweden.

TopNET live is the new brand name for Topcon’s GNSS network business which was restructured last summer. The company said TopNET brought together its strategy for global GNSS services.

The service offers subscription based, real-time GNSS network RTK (real time kinematic) and DGNSS (differential global navigation satellite system – an advance version of GNSS) subscriptions, with high quality GPS and GLONASS (its Russian alternative) correction data, as well as all future GNSS signals. Topcon said it could be used for many different applications, including surveying, construction, GIS mapping, machine control, and precision agriculture.

The Swedish agreement gives Topcon access to the raw data of the SWEPOS reference receivers for the processing and provision of the TopNET live GNSS RTK network correction service to end users in Sweden.

Mark Burbidge, networks infrastructure manager for Topcon Europe Positioning, said, “Our TopNET live service is powered by the TopNET+ network software, which connects to the national reference station infrastructure.”

He added, “The service is fully supported by a state-of-the-art 24/7 server farm, together with the TopNET live web panel for end users, providing user access for full network status monitoring, real-time rover status with Google maps, ionosphere graphs, user reports, mobile apps and much more.”

Elsewhere, Topcon Europe Positioning has also agreed a partnership agreement with TPI Poland for a new TopNET live GNSS Network in Poland.

The network will comprise of 115 Topcon Net-G3A reference station receivers and high-end geodetic CR-G5 antennas, covering the entire country.

The network service will offer flexible RTK subscriptions for many applications, such as survey, construction, machine control, precision agriculture and GIS all supported locally by TPI.

The partnership forms a close relationship between Topcon Europe Positioning and TPI to share the infrastructure, and enable the highest quality service to its customers.

Andrzej Jaroszewicz, managing director of TPI, said, “The current founding of TPI NET Pro (as a part of pan European TopNET Live project) is the next step in bringing a high value service to our clients, enabling them to perform their work faster in with increased reliability.”

He added “This is largely thanks to the shorter distances between the stations, as well as the possibility of using GPS and GLONASS over a complete network.”

Handheld mapping

Meanwhile, Topcon Europe Positioning has released a version of eGIS handheld mapping software solution designed for Windows-based tablets – eGIS PC.

Designed for GIS data collection specifically for use with GNSS-powered PC devices, or devices with external GNSS modules such as Topcon’s HiPer SR or GR-5, eGIS PC is said to allow ease of use for all mapping activities from autonomous level measurements all the way up to up to RTK centimetre-level accuracy.

Moba Mobile Automation excavation systems are used in various European countries, and the high-end system Vision 3D is being put to work at a construction site near Auckland in New Zealand for the first time.

Burkhard Mayer, Moba sales manager, said, “The project model created on a PC was supposed to be transferred to the machine. However, the volume of data was much too large for transmission via an internet connection. We were able to resolve this quickly and easily by means of Telesupport, which is offered for the Vision 3D.”

Telesupport reduced the volume of data of the model, making the transfer to the machine and processing with Vision 3D possible.

Centimetre precision

Moba said that with the GNSS positioning, which is made even more exact – with centimetre precision – by using RTK, the precise position of the excavator and bucket was known at all times. It said this localisation via satellite-enabled high-precision, efficient work.

The position data, as well as the incline and height differences compared to the reference area, are shown to the operator in real-time on the 213mm display.

On the basis of this display, the excavator operator can track the bucket in the 3D model and steer it precisely, said Moba.

Meanwhile, Leica Geosystems said it had chosen Getac’s PS236 fully rugged PDA to be used with the Leica iCON software solution together with the Leica iCON robot 50 total station.

It said the system offered operators the scalability of being able to change the top of the unit for a long range Bluetooth module and antenna, thanks to Getac’s FlexiConn technology.

FlexiConn enables operators to use the PS236 to control the Leica iCON robot 50 over 350m away, which the company said made the solution suitable for both large and small building sites.

Leica Geosystems’ new software is said to include an easy-to-use interface and full construction terminology, making it straightforward for construction workers to navigate, and making data capture and control simple, regardless of the operating conditions, according to Leica.

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