A simple guide to real-time kinematic GPS for farmers

If you’ve spent any time looking into precision farming technologies, you’ve probably heard about real-time kinematic systems. In this article, we will explain how this technology works and what benefits it can have for your farm.

What is RTK?

RTK or real-time kinematic technology uses additional stations on the ground to correct errors in the GPS data and therefore make location positioning more accurate. While a conventional GPS receiver simply captures signals from satellites in space and uses that data to determine its location, speed, and time, RTK systems use two components (a base station and a receiver) to determine location very precisely. First, an RTK station receives and processes a satellite signal, correcting for errors, and then sends the corrected signal to the receiver.

In some areas, you will be able to use RTK receivers without needing to purchase a separate base station. This is because these areas are covered by publicly available RTK signal networks that can be used for a fee or free of charge. If your area is not covered by an existing RTK network, you will need to purchase and install a separate RTK base station on your property.

Applications of real-time kinematic GPS in farming

RTK technology is widely used in modern farming practices. Real-time kinematic positioning can help farmers carry out agricultural procedures with incredible precision. Most commonly, RTK receivers are installed on autosteer-enabled tractors and other farm machinery.

Benefits of using real-time kinematic GPS technology in agriculture

All benefits of using real-time kinematic GPS technology stem from its significantly improved precision compared to regular GPS/GNSS signals. By using autosteer systems coupled with RTK receivers, farmers can achieve 1 cm accuracy in field operations. This significantly reduces pass-to-pass overlap, minimizes fuel usage as much as possible, and reduces the amount of time a worker needs to complete an operation. RTK technology also allows farmers to improve repeatability, plan passes ahead of time, and therefore reduce soil compaction. For example, RTK receivers and autosteer systems sold and manufactured by FieldBee can help farmers increase profits by as much as 120 euro per hectare, save resources, and minimize the amount of time necessary to complete different agriculture tasks. You can also read about one German farmer’s first-hand experience using FieldBee here.

Final thoughts

Real-time kinematic GPS enables farmers to utilize modern precision farming technologies, reduce fuel and labor costs, and dramatically improve the accuracy with which they carry out agricultural operations.
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