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Low-Elevation-Angle Tracking Antenna Improves Field Mapping

January 25, 2023  - By
Photo:

Tallysman antennas provide a critical link in the field for autonomous and semi-autonomous farm equipment. (Image: Kinwun/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

Answers from Ken MacLeod, Product Manager, Tallysman Wireless

 

How do you define precision agriculture?
Precision agriculture includes all such modern technological advances as precise GNSS, robotics (autonomous vehicles, UAVs), sensors, and GIS that enable improved crop production by soil/field management and minimize the use of energy, seed, herbicides, pesticides and fertilizer.

What have been the key turning points in the development of precision agriculture?
There have been four key precision agriculture developments over the past 25 years. First, field mapping, which enables yield monitoring and the directed application of seed, fertilizer, herbicide and pesticide. Second, precision GNSS, which enables the same plus crop row offset from year to year. This offset, in turn, makes it possible to distribute the plant root system and utilize nutrients in different locations in the field, as well as to minimize soil compaction by ensuring that wheels do not travel over the same row from year to year. Third, autonomy, including UAVs and autonomous vehicles. Fourth, sensors to monitor moisture and water levels, and to identify weeds and plants.

What are the specific requirements and challenges of precision agriculture for GNSS, and how do they differ from those of other kinds of mapping and machine control?
Many precision agriculture applications require L-band corrections, which are typically broadcast from a geostationary satellite 35,800 km above the equator. The distance from the broadcast satellite to the user increases as the user travels either north or south of the equator. At the same time, the elevation angle decreases and at ~70° north or south of the equator the geostationary satellite will be seen at the horizon. As a result, at northern and southern latitudes, the L-band correction signal is seen at a low elevation angle and it is very weak because it has travelled a long distance. Tallysman has designed the VSS6037L antenna to receive L-band signals seen at low elevation angles.

When did Tallysman Wireless begin to focus on precision agriculture and why?
In September 2019, Tallysman Wireless released the VSS6037L agriculture and machine control GNSS antenna. Most GNSS/L-band antennas on the market have significantly lower gain at low elevation angles. Common GNSS antennas will provide good geostationary L-band reception from the equator to approximately 55° north or south latitude. However, as the arrival angle gets lower, a common GNSS antenna will have less gain and it will be challenged to receive the L-band signal at higher latitudes. Tallysman designed the VSS6037L specifically to provide support for all latitudes and specifically low elevation angle L-band signals received by users north or south 55° latitude.

What are your relevant products/product lines?
Tallysman Wireless has several GNSS antennas and smart GNSS antenna product lines that are designed for precision agriculture. The TW3972XF (triple-band plus L-band) and VSS6037L (full-band plus L-band) are ideal precision agriculture antennas. Tallysman has recently released the TW5390, which is a smart GNSS antenna that uses the u-blox F9P chipset and supports its PointPerfect L-band augmentation service.

About the Author:


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@gpsworld.com or 541-543-0525.

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