There is absolutely no doubt that GPS guidance systems for tractors are a must-have for modern farmers who want to work professionally and keep the family business up and running.
Purchasing a tractor GPS system can require a significant investment of time and money, and therefore it is very important to choose the antenna carefully for it to provide you with the expected results.
A large number of smart GPS receivers are currently available on the market and it is challenging to assess their quality.
We have been developing the tractor navigation app for several years now. More than 120,000 farmers from all over the world have downloaded our FieldBee app by eFarmer. We have selected the best smart antenna to go together with our app to provide the best quality to our customers at a reasonable price. After 5 years of testing and receiving valuable feedback from our community, we came up with the following TOP 5 tips on choosing the best smart GPS antenna for your farm.
Tip 1. Take a look at the GPS technical specifications
When choosing a smart GPS antenna you should carefully examine the following important characteristics that affect the accuracy and stability of the GPS signal:
- GPS or GLONASS. According to the feedback we got back from our customers, while using a GPS receiver near trees they sometimes observe shifts in the pass-to-pass accuracy. If you don’t have trees and power lines in your fields, the antenna with a GPS receiver will be sufficient for you. A receiver that can pick up GLONASS and GPS constellation at the same time is more stable in the fields with the above-mentioned obstacles. FieldBee antenna receives GPS and GLONASS signals.
- The antenna has to support SBAS (EGNOS, WAAS, QZSS) – a free correction signal that significantly improves the navigation quality.
- Operates on a free frequency L1. This characteristic will help you to avoid additional fees for getting correction signals. If you choose L2 receiver, you will get higher accuracy but at a much higher price.
Tip 2. Choose the right level of accuracy
If you are considering to purchase a farm GPS system, you will confront with the notion of accuracy. There is a clear relationship between the precision of the GPS receiver and how expensive it is. What level of accuracy is sufficient for you? For professional work there are basically two choices:
- Sub-meter accuracy
- Centimeter accuracy
Centimeter accuracy can be achieved with RTK systems. Those systems used to be very expensive until we have made first affordable RTK system for farmers – FieldBee. Thanks to all the farmers from around the world who supported our crowdfunding campaign. Such high accuracy is allowing you to perform all kinds of field operations with the highest possible accuracy. With FieldBee app you will be able to measure field boundaries, map obstacles, create field notes with precise geolocation, operate machinery with high accuracy during the seeding, harvesting, spraying and other operations.
Submeter accuracy can be anything from 10 cm to 1 m. Many of our customers who are grassland farmers tell us that 30 cm accuracy is more than sufficient for them. But for other cases, this accuracy is not enough. And what is a point to purchase a solution that can be used only for some of your tasks? Read more about the accuracy of tractor GPS systems in our blog How to choose farm GPS receiver?
Tip 3. Is it easy to install?
Many solutions require professionals (middleman) to connect and configure them. This increases the cost of the system and its maintenance in the future. You should choose the antenna that you can connect and configure by yourself. Luckily new technologies can make things much easier. Bluetooth module is a key factor that allows to setup the antenna over the air using mobile application. That makes it easy to connect the antenna to any smartphone or tablet, reduces the time needed to reset the antenna between tractors and it also reduces the number of wires in the tractor cabin.
Tip 4. How often receiver defines your position
Position update rate can be:
- 1 Hz. With 1Hz you can navigate with the speed less than 3 km/h, on a higher speed the system lag behind and it will be too late to navigate.
- 5 Hz is optimal update rate for manual guidance with a sensitive light bar. With such update rate every movement of your steering wheel will be visible on a light bar of your navigation system.
- 10 Hz. This option is important for those who want to use an automatic steering system.
Tip 5. What should be the price
According to our community, the price of a reliable GPS system should be no more than 1500 euro. This investment will pay back in one or two seasons for a farm with 50 and more hectares.
We hope that our tips will help you to figure out what kind of antenna you need. It is important first to determine the goals you want to achieve and problems you want to solve (accurate measurements, navigation manually or with the autopilot). As well as to think for which field operations you will need accuracy for: plowing, spraying, seeding etc. Assess the possibility to upgrade the antenna it in the future, for example to an autopilot. And check the availability of technical characteristics that we described above.
We wish you to make the right choice and select the smart GPS antenna which will significantly improve your work this farming season.