If you’ve worked on a construction site with base stations in the past 20 years there’s a solid chance you’ve worked with UHF radios as well. UHF radios have been a staple for site communications and GNSS corrections across Australia for years, but that hasn’t made them immune to issues. Whether it’s dropouts, configurations or radio interference, UHF radios have a history of being difficult to set up, difficult to operate and difficult to keep running for long periods of time.
Yet despite all the issues that plague UHF radios they’re consistently found on construction projects from Sydney to Port Augusta. The main reason why? Nothing was invented to replace them. Everyone in the industry simply accepted that this was the way life was going to be on-site, that the radios were an improvement and they should just be happy they’re not doing things the old fashioned way. However, when you have 20 years with little improvements in the 21st century, you have to wonder why no one’s thought of a better option.
Now imagine having a little modem that you slot onto your tripod, plug into your base station, power it on then leave it to run for up to 20 hours straight. No repeaters, no antenna masts, no configuration. If just the thought of this easy and comprehensive technology hasn’t won you over, we’ve highlighted the three major issues with UHF radios, that you don’t get with the new MiRTK solution, brought to you by Aptella.
Major Issues with UHF Radios
When it comes to UHF radios there are many issues that surveyors, engineers and other GNSS users simply put up with because there is no alternative. However, amid the many problems with UHF radios three stand out as major deal-breakers. UHF radio frequency licences, UHF radio interference and UHF radio hardware difficulties are all major concerns moving into this new decade and need to be eradicated from construction, mining and geospatial sectors – no time like the present!
1. UHF Radio Frequency Licences
UHF radio frequencies are regulated by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) and need to be licenced before use. These licences have a range of conditions attached which need to be followed including:
- Power output
- Area of operation
With the conditions and regulations needed in order to obtain a licence for a UHF radio frequency, you would think it would protect you from any potential interference but unfortunately not. Shared frequencies are often plagued with interference issues and the penalties for interfering with sited licences are significant including the potential for jail time.
2. UHF Radio Interference
UHF radio interference is something that anyone who has used the technology has faced. This is predominantly due to the lack of available frequencies on the spectrum. Most surveyors operate on ‘area-wide’ radio frequency licences which do not provide exclusive use of the frequency within that area.
If there are multiple surveyors and contractors on a construction project there will need to be work done during the planning phase and while on-site to avoid more than one contractor using a certain UHF radio frequency. Even with planning this rarely works perfectly, making interference a regular occurrence.
3. UHF Radio Hardware Difficulties
The transmission of radio signals isn’t new and the guiding principles still apply – i.e. more power and higher antennas enable greater range – but this doesn’t always translate into better performance when dealing with data.
With more power (say 25 Watts), you need more battery power and the radio will generate more heat, perhaps requiring cooling, which in turn needs more power and the cycle continues. If the radio is old and has drifted from its centre frequency you can also be amplifying ‘noise’ and contributing to interference problems on site or pockets of bad data.
The antenna position, type and height are all major contributors to the propagation of the radio signal and often the best place for the radio is not the best place for the GPS. As a result, sacrifices are made for both technologies and the overall quality of the GNSS base station is compromised.
Next Generation GNSS Base Station Technology
But if there are so many issues with UHF radios, why do the construction, mining and geospatial sectors continue to use them? Quite simply, it’s been the lack of an alternative, but that is about to change. MiRTK from Aptella is a new and tiny addition to your base station that uses the internet to send out accurate correction data. If you’re able to get emails on your phone, you’re able to get accurate correction data, without all the issues you have with UHF radios.
MiRTK is an annual subscription service, but unlike the UHF radio licences, you don’t have to worry about interference or your configuration. And with pricing from $99 + GST a month, it is a simple and cost effective option that can be swapped between any GNSS system, wherever it’s working, with no additional costs or set up.
Not only this but the MiRTK hardware is brand agnostic. Regardless of whether you’re working with a Topcon, Trimble, Leica, Sokkia, Hemisphere, Carlson or any other brand GNSS unit, MiRTK will work with it. This saves you having to hire or buy multiple units for the various GNSS units you have and use. Want to know more? Get in touch with our friendly Aptella team to get all the details on the new MiRTK technology.