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It’s so new, we’re still playing with the bubble wrap!

I thought I would take a moment to share some of my experiences about using the Iowa DOT Real Time Network on the autopilot in my tractor this spring. For those of you that don’t know, the Iowa DOT put up a network of RTK base stations so that it covers the entire state with network RTK corrections available on the internet. They are providing these corrections free of charge, but you still have to be able to access the internet from the cab of your tractor. That is where the expense comes in. Anyhow, on to the operation of it.

Last Friday the network was down, so we were out of luck for most of the day if you wanted to use this network. Sunday evening I got some new updates loaded and got everything connected, but didn’t make it to the field. Sitting in the yard everything appeared to look pretty good though. Yesterday, I finally made it to the field with the unit to plant, and started on a 80 acre field. Things were off to a good start as I started planting the first pass around the field, but about one third of the way around the field on the first pass I lost corrections for the first time. I sat and waited about 5 minutes or so, and finally got reconnected to the network. This process continued for the next few hours, planting and waiting, planting and waiting. I was able to accomplish about 16 acres over the course of 3 hours or so, and I am running a 16 row planter. Definitely wasn’t setting any land speed records yesterday! All in all, the performance was quite good running the system when it worked, but I unfortunately spent way too much time sitting and waiting for the RTK to lock in. I think we are making headway on this, but we are still a ways from having all the bugs worked out. Like I was saying, this stuff is extremely new, and although it appears as though it will be a great technology to work with in the future, we still have a few bugs to work out of it.

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