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Clouds roll in over the Sandia Mountains as Topcon trainer Oscar Cantu sets up a reference station demonstration for Albuquerque's GPS network. Topcon made a contribution to Central New Mexico Community College to support technician training.

There also were a lot of meetings to get approval to mount equipment on public buildings like fire stations, and install infrastructure on other public property, which was granted with surprising ease. Albuquerque mayor Martin Chavez advocates technology that enhances the city's reputation as a great place to live and do business.

“The higher up we went, the more support we found,” says Wilkie. “Anyone trying to implement a system like this shouldn't be discouraged by some initial negative responses.”

Beyond New Development

One estimate puts the savings in time and cost made possible by the city's GPS as high as $69,000/year per surveying crew, the result of:

  • Less travel and setup time because ARTGN eliminates the need for mobile base stations
  • Reduced downtime from radio interference because cell phones are the primary network interface
  • Less waiting time because of “instant-on” rover availability
  • No theft or vandalism of mobile base station equipment.
  • Beyond that, the city is using, or plans to use, the system to:

  • Locate water system valves. Most water line breaks occur at valve locations, but finding the valve is difficult because it's usually in the center of the resulting “lake” caused by the leak. If the valve location is recorded in a GIS database it, or the next nearest valve, is located precisely in a few seconds.
  • Inventory and maintain signs. Recording locations, installation dates, and other relevant data in a GIS database facilitates maintenance.
  • Locate other city assets. Albuquerque recently completed a GIS database of all bus stops, and may add layers that include parking meters, curb and sidewalk locations, water and gas meters, and pavement conditions.
  • Track as-built construction. In addition to reducing the likelihood of mistakes, the system simplifies the process of determining who's at fault when structures are built in the wrong place.

“Anybody who needs to answer the question ‘Where is this thing?' and can handle instruments like a handheld receiver is going to benefit,” says Wilkie. “That's everyone you'd automatically think of—like surveyor/engineers and land developers—but also landscape architects, park and recreation designers, even archeologists and botanists.”

— Doug Drummond is a freelance writer based in Northport, Mich.

Web extra:

To view a glossary that sheds light on how unique Albuquerque's new GPS system—the first government-owned system with tri-constellation capability click here