Advancements in GPS Survey Equipment: What You Need to Know



Global Positioning System (GPS) survey equipment has come a long way in recent years. With advancements in technology, today’s GPS survey tools are more accurate, efficient, and user-friendly than ever before. For surveyors and geospatial professionals, understanding the latest GPS equipment can help ensure you use the best tools for the job. This article will provide an overview of critical advancements in GPS survey gear and what you need to know to make the most of this technology.

Improved Accuracy

One of the most significant achievements in GPS survey equipment is the improved accuracy of GPS readings. Older GPS survey tools often had 1-5 meters accuracy. But modern dual-frequency and RTK (real-time kinematic) GPS can provide sub-centimetre accuracy under good conditions. This near-pinpoint precision opens new possibilities for surveying and mapping previously complex geographic features and locations.

Some of the factors that allow modern GPS survey equipment to achieve better accuracy include:

Dual-Frequency Technology

Advanced GPS receivers use both L1 and L2 frequency bands from GPS satellites. This provides better precision compared to single-frequency receivers. Dual-frequency receivers can compensate for ionospheric disturbances that affect the signal.

RTK and Network RTK

Real-time kinematic GPS uses ground base stations to transmit real-time correction data to roving units. This produces centimetre-level accuracy. Network RTK uses multiple stations over a large area for even better precision.

Multi-Constellation Support

Many advanced GPS units can utilise satellites from other global navigation systems besides GPS, like Russia’s GLONASS or Europe’s Galileo. Using more satellites from multiple systems improves accuracy and uptime.

Faster Survey Speeds

Along with better accuracy, new GPS survey equipment offers much faster survey speeds than older units. Processing power and productivity continue to improve.

Modern high-speed survey-grade GPS can collect over 40 position readings per second, compared to only 5-10 readings per second just a few years ago. Faster data collection means more points and more excellent coverage in less time.

Rapid polling GPS, combined with radio and cellular communication, also means near real-time data transmission back to the office for quick processing and analysis—this improved efficiency benefits surveyors with tighter deadlines and larger projects.

Improved Usability

Today’s GPS survey gear provides a superior user experience to earlier-generation units. Ergonomics, interfaces, durability, and power management advances make modern GPS equipment easier to use daily.

Rugged Design

Survey-grade GPS is built to withstand rugged field use in all conditions. Units feature waterproof, shock-resistant designs and all-day battery life.

Intuitive Interfaces

From simple buttons and LED displays to full-colour touchscreen tablets, interface options match the needs of any surveyor. Most field controllers include customisable apps and menus for simplified workflows.

Connectivity and Data Handling

Bluetooth, WiFi, and cellular connectivity in GPS units allow wireless data transfer and communication. Onboard data storage has also expanded, with some units capable of saving weeks’ worth of survey data.

Lightweight Gear

GPS rover units’ reduced size and weight make them easy to transport and use in the field for extended periods. Lighter rovers with ergonomic designs minimise fatigue.

Emerging Direction and Inertial Technologies

Looking to the future, combining GPS with inertial navigational components and magnetometers can provide heading and positional data even when satellite signals are obscured. This allows surveying without line-of-sight to satellites in forests, near tall buildings, indoors, underground, and more.


The last decade has seen significant strides in GPS survey equipment capabilities. GPS gear has gone from meter-level accuracy to precisions at the centimetre level or better in a relatively short period. This massive leap in precision opens up new possibilities for surveyors to map and analyse geographic features more accurately than ever before.

In addition to improved accuracy, today’s survey-grade GPS can collect positional data at blistering speeds – 40 readings per second or more. This increased speed translates to more coverage and higher productivity in the field. Combining near real-time communication options in modern GPS and surveyors can collect and process data faster than ever.

Usability has also dramatically improved. Rugged designs withstand tough field use in any environment. Intuitive interfaces with simple or advanced controls fit any surveyor’s needs. Connectivity options like cellular and Bluetooth enable wireless data transfer in the field. Reduced size and weight make carrying and using GPS rovers comfortable all day.

As GPS and inertial technologies continue advancing in accuracy, speed, and flexibility, they will open new possibilities for positioning and navigation. Surveyors who keep up with the latest equipment will have the tools to take on any job with the highest productivity, precision, and professionalism. Undoubtedly, the next decade will see continued innovation in GPS survey equipment.

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