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Installing a GNSS receiver without an engineering degree

January 19, 2024  - By
Photo:

Seirrowon concentrates on the orchards and fixed crop market using u-blox RTK and sensor fusion receivers. (Image: Seirrowon)

I asked Jason O’Flanagan, co-founder and CEO of Seirrowon Labs — which specializes in robotic vehicle control, electronics hardware and firmware development — about the company’s collaboration with u-blox on precision agriculture. Here are a few excerpts from our conversation. Click here for the full version.

I know you’re working with u-blox.

We’re using both hardware and services products from u-blox. We’re using both their normal RTK receiver and their sensor fusion GNSS receiver. We started looking at u-blox, NovAtel, Trimble and Septentrio. However, we settled on u-blox as its mix of services and hardware were best suited to our business model. They provide a fully unlocked, fully functional receiver out of the gate.

In the fixed crop, orchard situation, having as many satellites as possible really helps with your position. So, from a hardware standpoint, it was a perfect solution for us. It allowed us to track up to 85 satellites at a time (two channels each) in adverse conditions. Their sensor fusion version, which is their ZED-F9R, allowed us to fill in the gaps when the GNSS became unusable under the tree foliage. The SL LITE is a generic RTK receiver, the SL LITE-R includes sensor fusion, and the SL Pro uses their L band receiver with the sensor fusion module.

What value do you add to u-blox’s modules?

All they give us is the raw GNSS. We add some IP functionality and support. U-blox outputs its data in a certain format, which is not applicable to the ag industry. So, we map out the data to get it in the right format that will work for a lot of the equipment that’s in the marketplace.

Second, we added a support server to it so that it backs up its settings to a remote server. So, if customers go down, we can flash their replacement receivers and overnight them back to them. The customers are also able to turn on remote support where we can see the data from the receiver and diagnose issues remotely. Our dealers have the same access.

We’ve added a support mechanism into our hardware that allows for better remote support without having to wait hours for someone to get to the field or diagnose an issue. We’ve also added remote updating for support and software. So, the customer can update and add new features remotely without us having to send someone out to do that.

What is involved in installing your equipment on tractors, combines, sprayers and so forth? What kind of support do you provide? I assume you’re brand-agnostic.
We designed our receiver so that anyone can install it. We took a lot of the complications out of it. We use industry standard Deutsch connectors and our device’s user interface is HTML. So, you can use any smartphone or a laptop or any device that has WiFi in it to set up the device. There’s no special software required, there are no special cables; you just connect to it as if it were a hotspot. You can set it up completely from there.

We’ve simplified everything to make sure that users don’t need a degree in GNSS or in engineering to install the receiver. It’s very straightforward. It has several pre-configured profiles within it that allow you to take a generic setup and say, “Hey, I’m putting you here,” so it will default to all the correct settings. We really want to make it as simple and straightforward as possible.

What is the typical use case for your technology?

We have a generalized solution that would be equivalent to, say, a SMART7 from NovAtel. It’s designed for row crop work out in the field and functionality within the standard operations that you get for GNSS receivers within agriculture. Our offering includes the LITE, which is a generic RTK receiver and the LITE-R and PRO, which use active sensor fusion to allow us to function better in orchards and fixed crops that have obstructions to the sky.
I’m concentrating on the orchards and fixed crop market because none of the main OEMs that are out there doing GNSS are taking any time with that market, so that’s where we see our niche.

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About the Author: Matteo Luccio

Matteo Luccio, GPS World’s Editor-in-Chief, possesses more than 20 years of experience as a writer and editor for GNSS and geospatial technology magazines. He began his career in the industry in 2000, serving as managing editor of GPS World and Galileo’s World, then as editor of Earth Observation Magazine and GIS Monitor. His technical articles have been published in more than 20 professional magazines, including Professional Surveyor Magazine, Apogeo Spatial and xyHt. Luccio holds a master’s degree in political science from MIT. He can be reached at mluccio@northcoastmedia.net or 541-543-0525.