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GPS TECHNOLOGY: CONTROLLING TRACTORS IN VA

Smith Farms is based in Rockbridge County, VA, a multigenerational farm where Mack Smith and his family produce corn, hay, soybeans, and cattle. It is not the place one would expect agriculture’s high-tech tools to be used with the trees and fields as far as the eye can see, but looks can be deceiving. Smith relies on an autosteer device to guide his tractor through the fields powered by a GPS device that is so precise, it measures in inches rather than feet. This technology not only protects against waste, it helps increase crop yields while reducing costs.

 

Their fertilizer trucks they use have used GPS for some time now, and this spring, they hired a GPS-equipped helicopter to aid them in applying chemicals. Just over a month ago, they made the decision to install the autosteer on their tractors to help drive the machine. “If it was just me here farming and I didn’t have all this technology, I’d be lost,” said Smith.

 

How They Use GPS

 

The satellite constellation and GPS receivers help track their position, and can be used for a host of reasons. The GPS device can aid farmers when mapping fields, locate outcroppings of rocks, or even different types of soil. Additionally, it can reduce the amount of fertilizer or other chemicals the farmer lays, assuring each part of the farm’s fields are treated only once and no more. The autosteer will assure that rows are planted straight and symmetrically, taking human error out of the equation altogether. “It’s awful hard, when you’re sitting on a tractor, watching out across a 100-acre field, trying to keep a straight row. It’s almost impossible,” said 60-year old Mack Smith. “With autosteer, I’ll be able to do that.” Autosteer also allows them to use less seed, as well as consuming less fuel, which adds up to greater profit.

 

The eastern part of Virginia has been using this technology for some time, as well as the states in the Midwest, where all of Smith’s children attended college. They are the first, however, to use GPS in the mountains of western Virginia. A Virginia Tech professor and specialist who’s written extensively about precision farming, Bobby Grisso, says that flatter areas are where you will find most use of GPS due to richer soils. He said the environmental movement fueled the rise of precision agriculture, and for the past 30 years, has become increasingly more accurate, leading to better agricultural practices. He estimates roughly 17 percent of Virginia’s farmers use the GPS and mapping capabilities of precision farming. In the Midwest, 30 to 40 percent of farmers rely on the same technology. GPS receivers typically cost anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000, and adding autosteer and other elements can make the cost jump by the thousands.

 

Better for Farmers, Better for the Environment

 

Smith Farms hopes to increase productivity by using the GPS device, while at the same time decreasing their carbon footprint by improving distribution of seeds and chemicals. They also wish to improve record keeping. They keep track of various government initiatives that encourage managing nutrients, limited tilling, crop rotation, and balancing grazing. “Environmentally, there are programs out there that are encouraging farmers to do more of this stuff,” said Smith. “The problem I see, though, is that a lot of farmers don’t have the record keeping that allows them to get into those programs.”

 

If farmers did keep good records, they could have their management plans approved by the state or federal government which would lead to the offset of the cost of such precision equipment in the form of tax credits. According to the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, for example, farmers can take advantage of a credit towards fertilizer application equipment expenses.

 

The primary reason farmers can benefit from the GPS technology: reducing the amount of planting materials or fertilizer they use. Sprayers linked in to the GPS device, for example, will turn off automatically if they pass over part of a field that has already been sprayed, or should not be sprayed. With the cost of seed as high as it is ($300 – $500 for a bag of seed corn as compared to $30-$40 fifteen to 20 years ago), this ensures the farmer is getting the most crop for the dollar. “You really have to make sure that everything is right, or else you’re just throwing money out the door,” according to Marcus Smith who learned about mapping and GPS technology in his studies at Western Illinois University. “With the autosteer, we won’t be overlapping as much, so we won’t be spending as much time in the field. Therefore we conserve fuel.”

 

Not A Lot of Support

 

Mack Smith admits that although he’s planted roughly 500 acres this spring using the autosteer, he is still learning. He says that because the technology is so new to his area, dealers aren’t able to offer the kind of support he would like. In talking with farmers from Charlottesville and areas near Northern Virginia who are currently using the autosteer device, they don’t have it any easier in the area of support. The rows he planted are straight, but the graphical display of the device is a bit overwhelming. “I’ve spent days and days and days in there, and it was not easy, but I’m getting better at it. It’s a learning experience, and it takes patience,” Smith said.

Author: Khristen Foss

Source: www.rmtracking.com

Your one stop for gps monitoring needs, contact an experienced GPS Monitoring Specialist to assist you with any GPS situtation.

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Your Cell Phone May Tell You When the Big One Hits

To many consumers, a GPS simply means a navigation system. Global positioning satellites somehow log into your car, determine your location, and tell you how to get to your Aunt’s house in Spanoway. Consumer applications for GPS devices have been expanding of late, especially when it comes to location based social networking. As such, GPS manufacturers—especially in the smart phone arena—are looking for new sawas to synchronize satellite signals with local WiFi signals and crowd-sourced data to seamlessly determine location, whether a GPS connection is available or not. Now, innovators are piloting a unique way to leverage GPS technology: as an earthquake alarm.

The Japan Earthquake
Nobody saw it coming: the massive 8.9 magnitude earthquake that occurred off the coast of Japan in March 2011. The damage, death toll, ensuing nuclear crisis, and emotional cost the nation faced was severe. Analysts noticed something, however, as the crisis unfolded: GPS stations all over Japan detected the seismic waves as they traveled through the nation. It took seven minutes for those waves to travel through the country. Analysts saw an opportunity to institute a GPS based seismic detection network in southern California that might make earthquake warnings more prescient.

Faster Reaction Times
It began at NASA. The organization’s jet propulsion laboratory has created a prototype GPS network across California, Oregon and Washington. The network is designed to alert first responder teams in the event an earthquake takes place. Will the network detect earthquakes before they happen? No: they can only analyze seismic data as it unfolds. However, the network would send alerts to areas that may expect seismic activity as the waves expand from the earthquake’s epicenter. The result may be a valuable early warning system for first responders around the nation and especially in the earthquake prone Southwest.

Is There an App for That?
NASA’s pilot program is just that: a prototype. The data is sent to first responders only at this time. However, the potential is there for earthquake emergency warning data to be sent straight to smart phones around the nation in the event of an earthquake. While that warning may only come sixty seconds before the earthquake hits, the warning may be extremely valuable in allowing individuals to seek and obtain cover before the worst occurs.

GPS: Technology That Everybody Wants

Over the last several years, GPS technology has permeated just about every conceivable industry. What started out as military tech, is now used to track criminals, suspects, children, elderly parents, wildlife, and valuable merchandise. GPS technology is used for recreational hiking, elaborate scavenger hunting, and personal navigation. Among the ever-growing uses for this technology is cutting business expenses. One of the ways GPS technology can help cut costs, is allowing better, more precise route planning for delivery services, buses, and even tractors.

gps tracking“You can do a straight line a whole lot easier,” explains Brad Eustace, a farmer in Washington, D.C.. Although he still mans his tractor, it is programmed with GPS technology to carefully trace his fields for tilling. Once tilled, hoses deliver precise amounts of fertilizer into the grooves he just laid out. This way, when farmer Jimmy Messick returns after several days, the field is ready for his GPS-equipped corn planter. “The seed goes right on top of this row. This tilled row,” he said. “The corn planter will come back, and it will be putting the seeds exactly on top of these tilled strips that the machine previously has put the fertilizer in.”

“You’re able to use less,” explained Messick. “Of course, you’re saving money. And you get the same performance out of the crop.” These farmers were able to cut their fertilizer usage in half, simply by implementing GPS technology to their equipment. “If we get better at applying only what’s needed, where they’re needed, then that’s less nutrients that can move off and get into water systems and watersheds,” said Tim Mize, farming expert at Virginia Tech University. “Anytime you can reduce inputs and increase your bottom line, that’s technology that everybody wants,” he said.

China Launches Two Navigation Satellites

It was recently announced China has launched two navigation satellites into orbit, bringing the total number of Chinese satellites in orbit to thirteen. The hope is China will soon be able to rely on their own network of satellites rather than the United States’ Global Position System as they currently do. The two satellites were launched at 4:50 am on April 23 from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre located in southwest Sichuan province on board a Long March-3B rocket. This was the first time two navigation satellites were launched on one single rocket, according to State-run Xinhua news agency.

China has recently fast-tracked its planned expansion of its indigenous Beidou or Compass global positioning network, pushing to provide global coverage by 2020 with over thirty satellites in orbit. If this goal is achieved, China will become the third country in the entire world after the United States and Russia to have its own GPS navigation system. According to a white paper recently released by the Chinese government, Beidou was “designed to break China’s dependence on the US Global Positioning System” and will be used for both civilian and defense applications.

China’s first space laboratory module, Tiangong-1, was launched last year, the first step in China’s plan to have its very own space station in orbit by 2020. This will make them the third country (again, after the US and Russia) to have accomplished this, although they are several decades behind their predecessors.

While the US is cutting spending in their space program, China is pumping billions of yuan into its space and satellite program. Many in the media last year watched the launch of the Tiangong-1 and saw it as “the latest showcase of the nation’s growing prowess in space…while budget restraints and economic tailspin have held back the once dominant US space missions.”

China isn’t just launching their own satellites into orbit, but those of other countries as well. At last count, they had helped launch more than 20 satellites for countries like Bolivia, Pakistan, and Nigeria. China launched the PAKSAT-1R, Pakistan’s first communications satellite, from Sichuan last year.

Chinese officials plan to offer navigation satellite services to other countries in the hopes of big financial gains. This year, the Beidou network will provide services for various countries in the Asia-Pacific region, such as GPS navigation services and real-time weather monitoring. Director of the China Satellite Navigation Management Office, Ran Changqui, estimated Beidou and its associated industries to bring around 400 billion yuan ($63.5 billion) by 2020.

Interesting to note that just last week, Chinese media reported on the launch of India’s first radar imaging satellite, RISAT-1, claiming it was “a spy satellite.” It’s the suspicion of many that China’s intentions with the Beidou network is less than innocent. However, officials are trying to downplay these concerns. After the launch of Tiangong-1, State-run Xinhua news agency tried to convince the suspicious this was not “a new wave of space race.” China said they were “neither the first country to seek explorations in outer space, nor the country with the most advanced technology, [so] it seems incomprehensible that China should cause concern to others.”

FBI Cuts Down on GPS Tracker Use For Now

In a highly watched decision, the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that secretly placing a GPS tracker on a suspect’s vehicle constitutes a search and is subject to fourth amendment rules. Mr. Jones, the defendant in the case, probably felt a sense of closure and relief, but the decision has marked the beginning of a tumultuous policy reworking in the field of law enforcement. Police and national agencies are scrambling to figure out how they can comply with the court’s direction and still continue using the investigative power of GPS. Most troublesome are the trackers that are currently out in the field, collecting information on suspects, but may not hold up under legal scrutiny.

FBI field offices across the nation quickly acted to consider each GPS tracker in use. If one was not under the authority of a warrant and might not meet the criteria for a “reasonable” search, the Bureau had to stop communicating with it. This ending of communication is irreversible, so the investigations in question lost valuable leads by abandoning the trackers. Unfortunately, agents didn’t have a choice, since any prosecution supported by these trackers’ data would be quickly thrown out by a judge.

It is unclear exactly how many GPS trackers the FBI disabled. The reported number varies widely from 250 to 3,000, depending on who is speaking. The Bureau is understandably wary of making information about ongoing investigations public, and its field offices are still in the process of reporting final numbers. We can only imagine how many other devices were disabled by state and local police across the nation, discarding valuable evidence that was central to investigations of many kinds.

It is interesting to consider how many individuals might have been under watch by law enforcement without their knowledge. Now, they may never know that anyone was watching them—that is, until they discover disabled GPS trackers concealed in their vehicles. Of course, this is not to say that all GPS tracking projects are illegal. Many agents and officers, anticipating the Supreme Court’s ruling, long ago began obtaining warrants to support their use of GPS devices. These investigations will continue and will likely display the huge advantage that global positioning gives law enforcement when it is used carefully.

Bill calls for tracking offenders by GPS

BATON ROUGE — A Senate committee approved legislation Tuesday that would give judges the discretion to mandate GPS tracking devices for certain defendants while they’re out on bail.

Lafourche Parish Sheriff Craig Webre requested the bill be filed and asked the Senate Committee on Judiciary to advance the proposal. He also informed its members he owns part of a company that sells tracking devices, among other related services.

The Louisiana Board of Ethics issued an opinion in 2002 stating Webre could sell ignition interlock devices, which are often required of drunk-driving offenders, just as long as he steers clear of doing business in Lafourche Parish. Webre said he’s following the same guidelines with the GPS tracking systems.

He told the committee he came up with the idea for the proposed law when he heard about a burglary involving a sex offender who was being tracked by GPS because of a court order. When coupled with the fact that Lafourche Parish has had 234 burglaries reported this year, he said a light went off.

“They were able to solve that burglary with the GPS data,” Webre said.

To put the rest of the pieces together, Sen. Gary Smith, D-Norco, filed Senate Bill 649 to target crimes involving burglary, theft and home invasion. He said individuals who carry out these crimes tend to be repeat offenders.

“They get out on bail, and we lose track of them, and then they usually come back in for the same thing,” Smith said. “If we can keep track of them while they’re out on bail, we’ll know where they’ve been and what they’ve been doing.”

Smith’s bill would allow a judge to mandate, as a condition of bail, that such defendants wear a GPS device if they can afford it. If the alleged offender is unable to pay for the tracking services, a provision in the bill permits community service in lieu of payment.

“They could even be a first-time offender,” Smith said. “They do not have to be a repeat offender.”

Sen. Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb, D-Baton Rouge, said she isn’t convinced that accused first-time offenders should be included in the legislation. She urged Smith to consider revisions before the bill is introduced on the Senate floor for further debate.

“I think if the judge is going to consider (the accused’s) criminal record, then he should also consider if they don’t have one,” she said. “A person is innocent until proven guilty.”

If adopted by the House and Senate, and then subsequently signed into law by Gov. Bobby Jindal, the bill would become law Aug. 1. The legislation will next be heard by the full Senate.

by Jeremy Alford

Climbing Mt. Everest with GPS

The height of Mt. Everest, the tallest mountain in the world, is under heated debate. Though standing more than 200 m above the next tallest rival, China and Nepal have been arguing the exact height of Everest for many years. Now, Nepal is seeking the expertise of scientists and GPS technology to settle the question once and for all.

Krishna Raj, the director-general of the Himalayan Survey Department, reports that they have measured from sea level to base camp, but from base camp to the top remains unmeasured by accurate and scientific means. Therefore, Nepal has appealed to the international community for the funding and technologically advanced equipment needed to obtain a measurement that is globally accepted as the definitive height of this prestigious peak.

The first published height of Mt. Everest was in 1856 by the Great Trigonometric Survey of British India. Using the science of math, the peak was calculated to be 8840 m above sea level. Today’s accepted height is not far from that figure; India’s 1954 survey of 8848 m above sea level is still Nepal’s claim to fame. However, in 2005 a Chinese survey put the height at 8844.43 m. The Chinese claim that their figure is far more accurate since they used modern technology and took the measurement to the tip of the actual rock surface rather than include the ice cap and snow. Interestingly, China did measure the ice cap and snow, though fluctuant, to be at 3.5 m, the difference between the two countries’ disputed claims.

Raj believes that Sherpas trained in the science of GPS technology could settle the debate, though he warns that the equipment would need to withstand temperatures of -70 degrees Celsius. In 1999, the United States did complete a survey of Everest using the scientific data collected from a global positioning system. Their measurement was 8850 m above sea level; another discrepancy. However, this can be accounted for by the newness of the technology and the lack of knowledge of Mt. Everest and its surroundings, which is why Nepal hopes to draw on the advances of scientists around the world to get to the bottom of all this, or rather the top of it.

Although it may take two years to determine a final measurement based on GPS data, Nepal is hopeful that the findings will put an end to the dispute with China.

Climbing Mt. Everest with GPS

The height of Mt. Everest, the tallest mountain in the world, is under heated debate. Though standing more than 200 m above the next tallest rival, China and Nepal have been arguing the exact height of Everest for many years. Now, Nepal is seeking the expertise of scientists and GPS technology to settle the question once and for all.

Krishna Raj, the director-general of the Himalayan Survey Department, reports that they have measured from sea level to base camp, but from base camp to the top remains unmeasured by accurate and scientific means. Therefore, Nepal has appealed to the international community for the funding and technologically advanced equipment needed to obtain a measurement that is globally accepted as the definitive height of this prestigious peak.

The first published height of Mt. Everest was in 1856 by the Great Trigonometric Survey of British India. Using the science of math, the peak was calculated to be 8840 m above sea level. Today’s accepted height is not far from that figure; India’s 1954 survey of 8848 m above sea level is still Nepal’s claim to fame. However, in 2005 a Chinese survey put the height at 8844.43 m. The Chinese claim that their figure is far more accurate since they used modern technology and took the measurement to the tip of the actual rock surface rather than include the ice cap and snow. Interestingly, China did measure the ice cap and snow, though fluctuant, to be at 3.5 m, the difference between the two countries’ disputed claims.

Raj believes that Sherpas trained in the science of GPS technology could settle the debate, though he warns that the equipment would need to withstand temperatures of -70 degrees Celsius. In 1999, the United States did complete a survey of Everest using the scientific data collected from a global positioning system. Their measurement was 8850 m above sea level; another discrepancy. However, this can be accounted for by the newness of the technology and the lack of knowledge of Mt. Everest and its surroundings, which is why Nepal hopes to draw on the advances of scientists around the world to get to the bottom of all this, or rather the top of it.

Although it may take two years to determine a final measurement based on GPS data, Nepal is hopeful that the findings will put an end to the dispute with China.

LightSquared Goes Out Swinging

LightSquared is pulling out all the stops in the lengthy battle over spectrum space andGPS interferenceLightSquared‘s case has been crumbling since the FCC‘s testing ruled that their powerful broadband signals would interfere with GPS receivers. The U.S. military, emergency response, aviation and farming industries, not to mention the thousands of personal GPS devices, all rely on GPS signals, and LightSquared‘s business plan was determined to be too much of a threat to these critical industries. Despite LightSquared’s cries of foul play, this decision eventually led Sprint to terminate a very lucrative contract with the company.

LightSquared recently filed an official rebuttal addressing the FCC’s decision to withdraw their conditional approval to develop the broadband network. Analysts are suggesting that this rebuttal, which was submitted on the final day of the latest comment period (March 16, 2012), could be foreshadowing plans to take the FCC to court. In the statement, LightSquared executive Jeff Carlisle mentioned “enormous and quantifiable… damages to LightSquared resulting from the Commission’s breach of its agreement with LightSquared and its violation of LightSquared’s constitutional rights.”

The company’s claims of wrong-doing are bold, if not confusing. The agreement Carlisle is referring to was a conditional approval granted by the FCC. The condition being that LightSquared’s terrestrial network did not cause significant interference for the nearby GPS constellation. The FCC did perform tests which concluded that interference was an issue, but LightSquared has since claimed that the testing was biased and suspicious. In his statement, the LightSquared executive claims that “no scientifically valid evidence exists that even 1% of GPS receivers would experience adverse performance consequences as a result of LightSquared’s operations, as currently proposed.” The FCC has extended the final round of comments, which will remain open until March 30, 2012.

GPS Flaw to Blame for Neutrino Mystery

Remember last year, when researchers announced they had discovered particles traveling faster than the speed of light? Many scientists were skeptical to believe the results of the GPS tracking system used in the experiment, as that would go against Einstein’s theory that light traveled fastest. It is something we all learn in physics, a basic principle that cannot be broken. Some even believe that breaking this physics law could possibly lead to time travel.

If you haven’t a clue as to what I’m talking about, here’s a rundown of the experiment. Neutrinos, electrically neutral subatomic particles, were fired from the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) site located on the border of Switzerland and France all the way to an underground lab located in Gran Sasso, Italy, 454 miles away. Researchers were blown away that they appeared to move faster than light, according to the GPS tracking system used. They stated that the results of the experiment were so unbelievable, they would have to be verified by scientists independent of CERN before any official results were discussed.

A flaw has been discovered by a group of scientists within the GPS tracking system used to clock the exact arrival time of the neutrinos, and two separate scenarios are being studied. One involves the speed of the neutrinos being overestimated, the other underestimated. Science magazine’s website says that sources have reported “a bad connection between a fiber optic cable that connects to the GPS receiver used to correct the timing of the neutrinos’ flight and an electronic card in a computer.” Spokesman for CERN, James Gillies, warns that further testing will be the true deciding factor into whether or not the neutrinos were actually traveling faster than the speed of light.

Just how much faster were the neutrinos? They were clocked at 60 nanoseconds faster than a beam of light would travel the same distance.