This weekend marked the end of planting for 2009 for me, so I thought I would take a minute to recap thoughts and experiences of the testing I have been doing this spring on the Iowa DOT network as a RTK differential source for my GPS. Here is a quick recap of my equipment and results:

I have an EZ Guide 500 lightbar which is cabled to a cellular modem. This allows me to access the internet, which is then pointed to the IP address for the Iowa DOT servers that are feeding the information from their RTK Network. This EZ Guide 500 is running my autopilot on my tractor.

This leaves a lot of pieces in the puzzle, so testing and troubleshooting of this system has proven extremely difficult. Early on, I was having problems with cell phone reception (I thought) and would lose connection to the server. I have been through several different upgrades via different firmware, different settings, etc., and still didn’t get the problems I was seeing to completely go away, although they lessened in frequency. There have also been the problems of network outage from the DOT itself, which brings on a whole different level of problems.

This weekend things were off to a pretty good start, but I was still losing connections from time to time. I had a great conversation with one of my friends Saturday evening, who I won’t name but would encourage him to post his experiences in the comments of this blog, that also ran a similar setup this spring. We came to the mutual agreement that the network would just “quit” broadcasting information from time to time. The reasoning for this opinion ( I can’t specifically verify what was happening each time) is for several reasons, but on my unit it would remain with a good cell signal and connected and logged into the server, but would drop out of RTK Fixed on the lightbar.

At the end of the day, I think this is great technology, but still has some bugs to be worked out. I have seen the progress over the season this year, and if it continues we could have something quite good on our hands in a short time. My opinion as of now is that the DOT still has some work to do on their network. I also believe that anyone trying to use this technology would be somewhat frustrated, as it hasn’t proven to be reliable yet.

Feel free to post comments, questions, suggestions, or your personal experiences here!