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First Day at INTERGEO: UAVs and RTK GNSS Receivers

September 15, 2015  - By 0 Comments

Every fall thousands of geospatial professionals are drawn to Germany, like bees are to honey, for the largest geospatial exhibition on Earth. This year in Stuttgart, more than 17,000 attendees from 92 countries are flooding the halls of the Stuttgart Exhibition grounds located adjacent to the Stuttgart International Airport. Attendees are being treated to a vast array of geospatial technology treats from 500+ exhibitors representing 30 countries.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

I recall a few short years ago, there were only a handful of UAV vendors at the entire exhibition. Now, there is hardly an aisle that does not contain a quad-copter, fixed-wing aircraft or a UAV-related accessory. The growth of UAVs into the geospatial market growth has been the most explosive geospatial technology introduced in the past 25 years, the span of time that I’ve been involved in the geospatial industry. It’s over the top — there is so much hype surrounding UAV technology that there might be more sellers than buyers. It’s become so crazy that there are vendors presenting UAVs that haven’t even been built yet! It reminds me of the days that Atari would announce a new game system nine months before it was ready to ship.

In the UAV space, I wonder which companies are actually making money. My guess is very few. A few of the big players like DJI, Parrot (owns senseFly) and 3D Robotics are doing well, plus a few others. But it’s an unhealthy buyer/seller ratio. Something’s going to give.

The sensefly eXom UAV in flight.

The sensefly eXom UAV in flight.

Today’s winners in the UAV market are companies like Pix4D, Agisoft and others who make mission planning and image-processing software for UAV-collected data. They are smart in that they aren’t competing against the hundreds of other UAV airframes on the market; they work with data from most of them. Following is a 3D example of what the Agisoft software can create given a bunch of images shot with a $1,500 DJI Phantom at 200-foot elevation.


The resolution is very good, and you’re able compute material volume such as the piles of aggregate on the west side of the river.

Inexpensive RTK

NVM_L1RTK-WIn the past, I’ve written a lot about inexpensive RTK GNSS receivers. At the InfoAg Conference a couple of months ago, Swift Navigation announced it is testing its $500 RTK receivers. At INTERGEO, CHCNav introduced L1 RTK GNSS in a mobile phone (check our website for a video on that). It’s not capable of centimeter accuracy yet, but quickly heading in that direction. NVS Tech is also pushing sub-$500 L1 RTK GNSS modules.

It’s interesting because L1 RTK is nothing new. That technology was first introduced almost 10 years ago, and wasn’t accepted very well. Now, the UAV phenomena is breathing new life into L1 RTK receiver technology because it’s driving the requirement for low-cost, high-precision GNSS receivers. L1 RTK GNSS are finally getting the love they were looking for nearly 10 years ago.

In case you weren’t able to make it to INTERGEO this year, Joelle, Michelle and I are shooting a bunch of short (~2-minute) videos at various exhibition booths while we are here. We hope to give you a flavor of the geospatial technology being offered this year in Stuttgart.

See you next time.

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This article is tagged with , , , , , and posted in GIS News, GNSS/GPS, Opinions, UAS/UAV
Eric Gakstatter

About the Author:

Eric Gakstatter has been involved in the GPS/GNSS industry for more than 20 years. For 10 years, he held several product management positions in the GPS/GNSS industry, managing the development of several medium- and high-precision GNSS products along with associated data-collection and post-processing software. Since 2000, he's been a power user of GPS/GNSS technology as well as a consultant with capital management companies; federal, state and local government agencies; and private companies on the application and/or development of GPS technology. Since 2006, he's been a contributing editor to GPS World magazine and the Geospatial Solutions website. He is the editor of Geospatial Solutions Monthly, a weekly newsletter focused on geospatial technologies. Follow Eric on Twitter at @GPSGIS_Eric.

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