There is a small plastic disk perched on a pole above the College. To most passersby it would go unnoticed; however, many engineers, geographers, surveyors and Loyalist students are not only aware of its existence, but value the accuracy, ease and efficiency that it brings to their jobs. It is a satellite antenna that is fixed in a precise location and at a specific elevation from which it communicates with the satellites of the U.S. Defence Department’s Global Positioning System or GPS.
Last fall Leica Geosystems Smartnet chose Loyalist College as the location for its newest permanent reference station. They have a network of stations stretching from southwestern Ontario to Atlantic Canada. Now subscribers need only a ‘rover’ and a cell phone to use highly precise, differential global positioning technology when they are within a 30 kilometre radius of the College. They no longer need to provide and maintain their own reference stations and are able to carry out surveys of centimetre accuracy.
“This permanent reference station is a definite bonus for our students in the Civil Engineering Technology and Survey Engineering Technician programs,” said Professor Mike Nitsch. “In their Introduction to GPS and Geographic Information System (GIS) course they work with Leica System 500 and 1200 rovers. Before the permanent reference station was here the students were required to set out a reference station every time precise measurements were to be done. Now the rovers communicate by radio with the permanent reference station for the projects carried out on the campus.”
Preston Parkinson is a third-year Civil Engineering Technology student who was one of the first Loyalist students to use the new system. “This system is not only less time consuming — as we are not having to establish our own reference station — but it is much more accurate. The old system was accurate within metres — the new one within centimetres. Before Christmas I did a two-week project for Lennox and Addington County using GPS. Under new municipality regulations they are required to account for all of their assets. This GPS data can be used not only for inventory, but for replacement and maintenance issues.”
Preston is currently working for Prince Edward County and will continue to do so following his graduation this spring. “I will be maintaining most of the databases in regard to motor vehicle accidents, using GIS for mapping — things like the 911 numbers used for civic addresses — and I will have some surveying responsibilities. I was a mature student when I came to Loyalist and was determined to prove myself. I feel that I’ve done that. I’ve enjoyed the challenge of my program and the support of the faculty. Opportunities to use systems like this permanent reference station have helped me realize the importance that efficiency can play in cost savings — not only in time saved, but also in the accuracy of the work completed.”
An information seminar regarding the permanent reference station is currently being planned. Those interested should contact Mike Nitsch at (613) 969-1913, ext. 2342.