A guide on how to choose the best GPS guidance systems for tractors

There is absolutely no doubt that GPS guidance systems for tractors is a must-have for modern farmers who want to work professionally and more efficiently.

Purchasing a tractor GPS system can require a significant investment of time 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 85,000 farmers from all over the world have downloaded our eFarmer app. 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 3 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.
  • 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

Centimetre accuracy can be achieved with RTK systems. These are the most expensive systems, the price range starts from 3000 euro. In addition to the antenna, RTK systems usually require a subscription to the correction signal or a base station nearby. Such high accuracy is needed to measure field boundaries, map obstacles, create field notes with precise geolocation, operate machinery with high accuracy during the seeding 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, Read more about the accuracy of tractor GPS systems in our blog How to choose farm GPS receiver? Don’t pay extra for accuracy you don’t need.

Tip 3. Is it easy to install?

Many solutions require professionals 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 and spend no more than 15-20 minutes on it. Bluetooth module is a key factor that allows to setup the antenna over the air. 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 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.

Conclusion

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: ploughing, 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.

Read an overview of the best receivers that are currently available on the market in our next article.

Yours faithfully,

Alexey Bogatyrev

CTO eFarmer

2 Response Comments

  • oliveAugust 17, 2017 at 2:48 pm

    Appreciate your guidance Alexey. looking forward to read the next one too. Keep sharing.

    Reply
  • Mias BiermanAugust 25, 2017 at 1:48 pm

    Is it possible to get your antenna in South Africa. I need a accurate system for crop planting. I would like a system that support autopilot.

    Reply

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