HxGN RadioPodcast

[PODCAST]: Experience GNSS Innovation

With more GNSS signals than ever before, the risk of increased position noise becomes very real. In this HxGN RADIO episode, we discuss how the recently released Leica GS16 GNSS Smart Antennae selects the strongest and best combination of these signals with a powerful 555-channel engine and uses precise point technology to work with or without reference links.  

Welcome to HxGN Radio. This is your host Monica Miller Rodgers. Today’s podcast is brought to you by Leica Geosystems. Revolutionising the world of measurement and survey for nearly 200 years, Leica Geosystems creates complete reality capture solutions for professionals across the planet. Known for premium products and innovative solution development, professionals in a diverse mix of industries trust Leica Geosystems for all their geospatial needs. With precise and accurate instruments, sophisticated software and trusted services, Leica Geosystems delivers value every day to those shaping the future of our world. In today’s episode we are talking to Bernhard Richter about the latest GNSS innovations from Leica Geosystems, and Bernhard is the GNSS business director at Leica Geosystems.

MR: So Bernhard let’s start off by talking about the newest GNSS, which is the Leica GS16. What can you tell us about that?

BR: First of all thanks for having Monica. I’d like to take actually a step back here, and I always want to think and approach a problem from what is the main drivers, what are we developing and what are we doing here, and this GNSS and high precision GNSS, we have three primary drivers for me. One is, of course, always how can we work in challenging conditions, like urban canyons, under canopy, these kinds of things. So we always want to get better here. The other thing is there’s so much happening with GNSS modernisation, and it’s Beidou constellation, is maturing, it’s Galileo satellites going up. So we always need to keep up with the pace in modernisation, and last but not least we always struggle because with high precision GNSS you need a correction signal. You have weak cellular links, you’re out of your radio range, so we needed to solve those kinds of problems. So we are having these three major challenges, and then we developed this brand new GS16 our primary driver really was to reduce these amounts of challenges and make it more pleasant for the customers by actually listening to their problems. So this is what the GS16 is about.

MR: So Bernhard you mentioned these difficult environments that surveyors and other measurement professionals are working in today, and that they need this GNSS signal to be able to connect with that. Last year Leica Geosystems released the world’s first self-learning total stations and multi stations, and the GS16 is self-learning GNSS. What does that mean?

BR: So you could say well it’s a marketing buzzword, but it’s actually a lot behind, and we think of all these new signals in the space. We have L-band signals that provide you corrections, and all these new signals provide you a lot more choice. So you gain from it, you have more benefits because you can have new linear combinations of all these signals. You’ll get better performance, but at the same time you’re not only gaining you’re also increasing the noise of the signal. So you need to become very smart. Your receiver needs to be very smart. It needs to be adaptive. It needs to learn from the predominant conditions what’s the best signal combination, and in one word this receiver has to be intelligent. It has to learn, be self-learning, and that’s what we came up with in the end based on the terminology and said “Wow, this is a truly self-learning GNSS receiver.

MR: And it’s self-learning through these two new pieces of the GS16 which is the RTK plus and SmartLink. Now can you explain what those are?

BR: RTK plus and SmartLink are really the heart of this new self-learning GNSS GS16. RTK plus provides you the best possible combination of signals. RTK plus hosts a 555-channel engine with a new very powerful processor. In simple terms, it’s all these modules and engines working together in harmony with one goal in mind, and this is provide the best possible coordinates  for the user, and this is RTK plus.

SmartLink is also a very new technology and as the name says, it tries to select the best possible link to the correction signal in a smart way. So SmartLink is more than just a PPP, precise point positioning technology. Yes, it utilises from an L-band link from a geostationary satellite these corrections, and is able to do a fully remote position pretty much anywhere on the globe with an accuracy of 3 centimetres. That’s possible, but at the same time when you do have your local RTK network, SmartLink selects what is the best possible link to use and switches seamlessly between an L-band signal from the geostationary satellite or the local RTK network again with the same goal in mind to seamlessly provide the best possible position for the user.

MR: It’s certainly impressive that it can on its own figure out what signals are best for the user, and I’m sure that makes it easier on the user. So since you released the GS16 into the market what applications are you seeing it being used in?

BR: Again it’s very simple. I guess we all know weak cellular coverage and driving around the mobile phone simply doesn’t work. So what this self-learning GNSS do for you in these situations? It would simply switch from your local correction service to the extra-terrestrial satellite correction to keep going. So that would be a typical example for where this helps you. Or the other thing is you’re in a completely remote area, it would work on Mount Everest so you wouldn’t need cellular coverage and you can send up a mountaineer, and just tell him what you have to do is you wait a certain amount of time, you press a button and then you get that amount of accuracy. We have one project that’s on the Rhine River, that’s a river between Germany and France. Not so much in the States but in Europe we are familiar with roaming and your cellular phone tries to switch constantly between the German network provider and France, French network provider, and again SmartLink keeps you going because you bridge the time while the cellular phone switches between different providers. So, it helps in many, many situations and makes providing the position more robust.

MR: And Bernhard what is this new self-learning GS16 mean for the future of the industry and could you perhaps give us a sneak peak of any new innovations that are coming up?

BR: So I don’t want to say this, but I was questioning myself if the GS16 is the last receiver you’ll ever need. With respect to GNSS modernisation, I kind of believe you will not need a lot more here, right? So I believe that the GNSS technology, as it is, is fairly matured, and the reason is we see what’s happening with GPS. They’re having a replacing strategy. So they’re not aggressively putting up new birds and new satellites into the sky. They replace the satellites that are beyond their lifetime. So that’s how they do it, one to two satellites per year. So Galileo is now having an aggressive strategy to put up more satellites but this will be done by 2020, Galileo will be done. Beidou will be finished by 2018-2019. So I don’t see a lot of global services, new global GNSS satellites that are planned be on 2020. So at 2020 it will mature. The government won’t spend a tremendous amount again just to make sure they maintain the constellation, and, yes, the technology as is will mature. But, of course, course we’re not running out of ideas to make GNSS better. For me the next decade will be about sensor fusion, we’re talking about IMUs, so inertial systems are merging into GNSS. We are talking about SLAM, simultaneous localisation and mapping technologies, combined with it merging into that technology. And that will allow you to use additional different technologies to position in areas where we probably believe now you’ll never measure with a GNSS receiver. So, we have ideas beyond 2020 for sure. We’re not running out of ideas, but the GNSS technology as it is in this brand new GS16, we are very, very close with our belief we have managed it to master the technology.

MR: Well it’s certainly an exciting time to see what does come in the future once we hit the 2020 mark. So Bernhard, thank you so much for joining us here today and sharing your insights with us.

BR: Thank you Monica.

To our listeners, you can learn more about self-learning GNSS at Tune into more episodes from HxGN Radio on iTunes, SoundCloud or Stitcher Radio. Thank you for listening.