State to put GPS station on top of Neal High

Published 4:30 am Saturday, May 8, 2010

W.S. Neal High School will be home to an Alabama Department of Transportation GPS Base Station following approval for use of the school’s auditorium roof last week.

Members of the school board unanimously agreed to allow ALDOT to mount the base station to the top of the auditorium using a single pole structure.

John Russell, assistant location engineer with ALDOT, explained the purpose of the base station and why W.S. Neal was the best fit for its location.

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“We need to put these on good solid foundation to make sure the site is not moving and to make sure it has a good, clear view of the horizon which allows it to see all available satellites,” Russell said. “It is a continuously operating eeference station, which is a survey grade GPS receiver operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Russell said the base station will have power run to it, but will only use 4 watts at 12 volts. He said a DSL link is also needed for generating data, which the board also agreed to allow ALDOT to access from the school’s current network.

Once complete, the base station will be used for numerous purposes.

“ALDOT’s primarily uses it for surveying and engineering applications,” Russell said. “Surveyors use it for positioning and collecting information. On the construction side, a lot of contractors are going to computer controlled equipment, where computers installed in the construction equipment retrieve data on where to cut or fill or how much dirt to move, it’s all controlled by GPS.”

Russell added that numerous ALDOT hired contractors such as surveyors and engineers are switching to the high-tech equipment, and with the base stations in place, they are able to utilize the GPS systems, cutting down on the amount of workers needed.

“It increases productivity, and reduces personnel which results in a cost saving to the state,” Russell said.

Farmers in the area are also able to use the base station for their GPS-controlled equipment for what is called precision agriculture.

“Precision agriculture allows a farmer to increase his productivity, monitor crop yields more efficiently and allows the application of pesticides and fertilizer exactly where it’s needed, which reduces runoff and pollution,” Russell said. “The scientific community uses the GPS data to monitor subsidence and crustal motion and the NOAA weather service uses it to measure water vapor in the atmosphere which results in improved real time weather forecasting.”

The cost of the base station and its installation is between $20,000 and $25,000, Russell said. ALDOT is working in conjunction with the Alabama Department of Revenue in locating the stations 45 miles apart throughout the state with funds from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.