Experience With Submeter Data Collectors or GNSS Recievers For Field Collection

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04-22-2022 07:38 AM
GISUSER6
New Contributor III

Hello All,

My company is looking into getting new GNSS recievers / data collectors to complete wetland delineations, restoration projects, invasive species mapping, etc. The department looking into getting new units previously used two Trimble Geo7x and are pretty set on getting something similar, however they need to get away from Trimble software as one of the programs they use is no longer comptible with Trimble software. They absolutely need a unit that can get reliable submeter accuracy and is very compact/handheld since they often go through lots of brush and tall grass. 

I would like to know others experiences with similar work and what they are using to collect data out in the field. We are trying to move to Esri Field Maps with this upgrade.

Thanks and much appreciation!

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4 Replies
SteveCole
Frequent Contributor

It's unfortunate that you have that issue with Trimble software because otherwise I would just recommend staying with a Geo 7X. This was my dilemma about a year or so ago when I had to figure out a replacement for our Trimble GeoExplorer XH whose battery (its 3rd) no longer held a charge. The choices came down to a Geo 7X or one of the bluetooth enabled GPS receivers and ESRI's Field software apps. Ultimately I chose to stay with the Trimble Geo style receiver because I still wanted the option for post processing of our data since my environment typically includes forested wetlands and other challenging acquisition conditions.

I think you do have to weight the costs because it is kind of a pay now or pay later situation. If you go cloud, there are additional costs which you may not have anticipated. For what it's worth, here's the text of what I had written up in a memo about our purchase recommendation. Again, it seems like you have a fatal flaw due to your other software dependency but maybe this will still be of some use.

Steve

Current Situation

Our Trimble GeoExplorer XH has performed wonderfully but is now 13 years old. We have replaced the internal battery twice and that battery is no longer available. More importantly, in April of 2019, the GPS constellation of satellites experienced an intentional “rollover” in their internal memory where the date information that is stored is reset. Newer GPS units are not impacted by this phenomena but older units like ours are impacted. While there is a free firmware update to fix this problem, it requires us to update the desktop software that handles the GPS data processing and that doesn’t seem practical, especially since we can no longer replace the internal battery.

 

Replacement Options

A lot has changed since our original purchase back in 2007. While dedicated handheld computer/GPS units still exist, the emerging trend in GPS receivers for mapping are antenna receivers that connect wirelessly via Bluetooth to the device of choice (smartphone, tablet, etc). Here are the options and their prices for a GPS unit with sub-meter accuracy:

Integrated Computer/GPS Unit

The Trimble Geo 7x is the current equivalent of our current model, the GeoExplorer XT. The Geo 7x was introduced in 2013 and is still an officially supported product by Trimble but it is also built on Windows Mobile 6.5 which Microsoft no longer officially supports and will stop licensing new copies in December 2020. That being said, Trimble has committed to providing service and parts for 7 years beyond the date of a product’s discontinue date. This option would cost:

                Trimble Geo 7x                                                 $5995

                Trimble Tornado Antenna                           $1462

                ESRI Arcpad 10.2                                              $700

                Trimble Positions Software Extension    $500

                Range Pole Bracket                                         $135

                                                                                Total:    $8792

This option has a high initial cost but no reoccurring costs barring repairs.

 

Bluetooth Enabled GPS Receivers

This option has increasingly become the new standard of data collection and has lower startup costs but introduces reoccurring costs which I’ll discuss separately. There are a few different options within this category at different price points:

  1. EOS Arrow 100:        This is a single band GPS receiver and the unit that PDS purchased for its biologists to use in the field. To date, my understanding is that they have been happy with its performance. It uses an algorithm to “predict” your location when in difficult conditions, something I have been weary of.

EOS 100 w/ Survey Antenna       $3520

  1. EOS Gold:    This unit is an upgrade from the Arrow 100 and includes the two current bands plus it receives a newer third band which is in the process of being rolled out.

EOS Gold                             $4300

EOS Survey Antenna      $1250

Pole Mounting System  $245

                                Total:    $5795

  1. Trimble R2: Technology wise, this is the functional equivalent to the Geo 7x but packaged as a Bluetooth enabled receiver.

Trimble R2:         $5215

All of the Bluetooth enabled GPS receivers will likely require an additional reoccurring license fee because they are designed to work with Cloud based solutions. Data collection with all these options would be accomplished using ESRI’s Collector iPhone/iPad application and the use of that application requires what is known as a field worker user account. Unfortunately, here’s where things get a bit murky. I’ve been unable to get a good response from IT about how we want to manage this in the county so I can only provide an estimate based on some assumptions. Since we only have one GPS unit, my desire is that we would be able to set up a generic user account so that any ENVS staff person could use the GPS unit. This idea does run afoul with IT’s security policy of sharing passwords (though there are some exception examples such as the ENVS permit email account).

Each Field Worker User Role costs $325/year. If we must have accounts tied to actual individuals then the annual cost would be:

$325/year x (# of staff collecting GPS data)

Again, my hope is that we can utilize a generic account and just require one $325-account. I should note that this cost is for staff *other than myself*. I have an elevated user role due to my work so I would be able to utilize that role if I am called on to do any data capture. This $325 cost per user is associated to any additional staff that may collect GPS data. This would be the extent of additional costs should we decide to purchase either the Arrow 100 or the Arrow Gold. Neither EOS unit supports the ability to post-process the data collected for increased accuracy.

The Trimble R2 does support the ability to post process your collected data for increased accuracy but requires using a new Cloud-based service called TerraFlex by Trimble which costs $400/year to access and use.

Recommendation

It’s been quite difficult to come to a recommendation with so many unknown variables that come into play. I’ve tried my best to anticipate the costs associated with each unit but there’s always a chance I’ve missed something or the cost changes. Any unit in this list can meet our needs but I will list my recommendation, in order of preference;

  • Trimble Geo 7x ($8792)
  • Trimble R2 ($5215)
  • EOS Arrow Gold ($5795)
  • EOS Arrow 100 ($3520)

I ranked the EOS Arrow 100 last primarily because it is a single band receiver, and research shows that dual band GPS receivers do better in difficult situations such as under forest canopy. The Trimble R2 & EOS Arrow Gold are almost a toss-up but I gave the edge to Trimble because of Trimble’s proprietary technology which helps with data collection in difficult environments.

This leaves the Geo 7x as my recommendation. It is not the cheapest (unfortunately), but Trimble’s integrated handhelds are built very solid and last a long time. I have a high confidence that any Geo 7x that we purchase today will still be operable in 7 years, if not longer. Speaking for myself, I know that I will be able to be productive immediately with a Geo 7x because I am already familiar with the software and its associated workflow environment.

Danvey
by
New Contributor II

I use a Trimble Geo7x and have been using GPS Pathfinder Office. However, I recently upgraded computers and can't get Pathfinder Office and ArcGIS Pro operable at the same time on a Windows 11 system. Just wondering how things are going for you

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SteveCole
Frequent Contributor

Luckily for me, we're still on Windows 10 so I'm operating just fine. I know that Windows Mobile had issues with Windows 10 but I was able to get it working using the advice that has been posted online. Maybe this link will help you out. It's basically the same process I used to get it to work under Windows 10.

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Linde_Carmack
Occasional Contributor

Our organization recently deployed two Juniper Geodes after years of using Trimble R1s. Our experience with the Geodes has been very positive and will be the devices we invest in going forward. They are portable for field work, provide reliable sub-meter accuracy, and are very user friendly. I expanded on the benefits in the replies to this thread

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