The surveying equipment described below was used to survey more than 35,000 ha of Viticulture and Horticulture development across Australia. As areas and distances are greater than encountered in the Philippines automation techniques were developed to make the survey process highly efficient. Labor, fuel and equipment hire cost was very high.

The RTK GPS Kits shown in the examples was provided by the Trimble GPS dealer in Adelaide South Australia. The cost of the RTK GPS system was known to be in excess of US$120,000 (5,750,000 PhP) in 1998. The GPS technology was in rapid development. The equipment firmware was updated on a monthly basis making it near impossible to cover the cost of upgrades while operating the RTK GPS system economically. The firmware maintenance program was around US$5,000 PA.

Land Evaluation Survey

Horticultural Development

 Land selection based on topography for a 5,000 Ha Almond development project near Mildura, South Australia, 1998. A Toyota Landcruiser with GPS antenna mount on the “Bullbar” was deployed for the survey.

The land had been deep ripped to 250 mm only days before the survey, consequently the vehicle worked very hard to maintain the 30-40 KPH required to provide 50 meter x 50 meter grid spacing for the automated point spacing software in the controller. In 1998 there was only 34 GPS (USA) satellites. Maintaining an RTK FIX required careful time based pre-survey planning to maximize satellite coverage. regular rest periods were required as the constellation changed to ensure the highest quality points (X,Y 15mm and Z (Height) 30mm) were  recorded. Under the dry summer conditions the temperature reached 45 degrees celsius and the dust cloud following us required a wait of 5 minutes to settle to alight from the vehicle. The Landruiser was air-conditioned (tch)!

The topographical survey took  4 grueling days (38 hours work) (consuming 480 litres of diesel, 5 liters of engine oil and 2 x tyres were destroyed), the engine air cleaner element was cleaned hourly.

Recording over 20,000 points to produce Contour map and 3D model of the land form. Drivers were changed every 4 hours; the driving job was tiring, strenuous and demanding; fortunately the project was successful and the survey data was delivered on time (Christmas Eve, 1998).

Trimble GPS rover in a backpack (12kg), NO Wifi or Bluetooth in 1998; all cables and powered by Nickel Cadmium or Lead Acid batteries (changed every 2-3 hours). The rover was powered from the Landcruiser 12VDC cigarette lighter outlet to provide continuous power.

AGR Surveying - Landcruiser

Engineer Parsonage, checking survey control point for coordination of topographical survey of 5200Ha

Topographical and Layout Survey

Viticulture Development

Checking equipment and survey planning; before beginning an RTK GPS topographical survey in the Barossa Valley, South Australia.

Viticulture properties are selected on their topographical features for efficient drainage plus suitability of soils for irrigation and vine variety suitability. As the project developed RTK GPS was used to select and locate soil description sites, layout vine rows and layout irrigation pipe networks all within centimeter accuracy.

Soil Map

The ATV was developed as a “special purpose” topographical surveying vehicle, several modifications were made including remote control.  The vehicle was later modified to use GPS guidance from a  tracking software program running on laptop computer to operate the ATV autonomously.  The vehicle, a Suzuki 250cc 5 speed manual,  4WD ATV capable of maintaining a ground speed of 30 KPH over normal terrain to provide measured point spacing. The GPS Antenna was mounted at the top left corner of canopy. Positioned to allow control points to be collected without removing the GPS antenna and cabling. Reversing in to the control point to check a control point.

NOTE:  Trimble RTK Base receiver on tripod in the background.

AGR Surveying - UGV Topo

Engineer Elliott, surveying 1,200 Ha of property in preparation for a Vineyard development near Tanunda, Barossa Valley, South Australia 2001.

Developing a CORS (continuous operating reference system)

The Checkpoint, GlobalCORS project (GPS Applications Engineer Desmond Elliott and Computer Programmer/Robotics Engineer Troy Vopodovic) was developed for deployment across South Australia in 2007.

Checkpoint CORS was developed as a Cloud based CORS system enabling a CORS station anywhere on earth to be connected quickly and easily, then utilized in the network. The system was successfully installed and tested in Italy Greece Ireland, Sweden, Thailand, Singapore, The Philippines and USA in testing and design mode. Unfortunately the 2008 financial crash saw the project stalled and discontinued due to lack of funds.

As the CORS project developed there was a need for cheaper deployment and cost savings to efficiently deploy CORS stations across Australia. The (independent Continuously Operating Reference Station) iCORS assembly shown below was designed in AutoCAD 3D, then using laser cutting technology the components were precision cut for assembly. The concept was developed to allow CORS stations to be manufactured, assembled and installed in remote areas where only Wifi and Mobile phone communications were available, utilizing Solar power for energy. The CORS base enclosure was  a 6′ x ‘6’ x 6′ container purchased from China.

The CORS monuments and fixtures were manufactured in quantities for shipment across Australia (or the world). The compact size allows 6 units to be shipped in one 40′ container. The 6′ shipping container transports each iCORS kit then providing secure housing for the electronics and batteries, while externally the container provided an ideal platform for  GNSS antenna monument (Tier 3) and mounting for Solar panel, GSM and Wifi antennae. Although security protection is included, the iCORS were installed in a chain mesh compound to protect them from vandalism.

iCORS 3D model Designed by Desmond Elliott 2011

Several iCORS are operational across Australia forming part of the Australian National CORS network (Geoscience Aust).

iCORS (photo)

iCORS assembled and operational at Mallala (near Adelaide), South Australia 2011