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GPS collars in Mongolia sending GPS data via satellite to www

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

In anticipation of the release of our latest GPS collar we have sent two collars to researchers working with bears in Mongolia.  The question was whether or not the collars could transmit GPS data via satellite from that location.  There is no reason to believe that they would not but the proof is in the pudding.  So we programmed the collars to transmit new GPS positions from memory every 8 hours.  The data modem that we are using is made by Iridium and uses their low orbit satellite constellation to transmit information.  The product is deployed for tests only at this time, released for sale after completion of our field tests.

Quintin

Guide to available technologies for wildlife tracking, Part 1.

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

My company, Telemetry Solutions, does a lot of business with universities and people who are new to wildlife tracking so I have started this series to educate potential new users of wildlife tracking technologies.  The intention here is to save you time at the beginning telemetry learning experience and to help guide you to the appropriate technology for your wildlife research project.

The most prolific tracking equipment in wildlife studies is VHF transmitters.  They have been around since the ‘60s.  Wildlife biologists continue to use them by tracking the VHF signal with a VHF receiver and directional antenna. These are labor intensive devices that are most often tracked manually. The flip side to their labor intensive nature is that they are inexpensive so if you have a lot of cheap labor and very little money they are the obvious choice. 

There is another technology called PIT tags.  These utilize a tiny transponder and are most often used for fish.  Because the PIT tag has no power source and derives its power from the device that registers or reads it, the tag has to pass through a field containing the power.  The field is created by the reader coupled with an antenna and has very short range.  For fish traveling either up or down stream it’s perfect as one can set up the antenna system either on shore or over the river and when the fish passes by a data logger can record that event.  These probably have little usefulness on terrestrial animal projects.

Moving on to a more high tech device we come to the PTT tags.  These are satellite transmitters that utilize an old and small satellite communication system called ARGOS.  ARGOS has been around since the ‘70s.  While the transmitters have gotten smaller the number of satellites in orbit remains small and that means that the user has only certain windows of opportunity in which data can be sent from the transmitter to the satellite.  These PTT tags, in their rawest form, are merely satellite transmitters.  However a hybrid system has developed that utilizes the ARGOS system to relay GPS position data stored in a collar.  Please don’t confuse ARGOS with GPS, the only thing they have in common is that they both utilize satellites, the similarities end there.  ARGOS tends to be a rather expensive system to use in that one has monthly subscription fees to pay while the study is ongoing. 

Another system is GPS.  GPS is a global satellite system that transmits signals down to the earth all the time.  There are usually over 20 operational GPS satellites in orbit at any given time. Each satellite contains two atomic clocks so that there is a precise time stamp on every signal sent from the satellite.  As the position of the satellite in space is known, the time the signal is sent is known and the speed at which that signal travels is known, a GPS receiver can calculate position by triangulation of the signals received from the satellites.  Signals from at least 3 satellites must be received in order for the GPS receiver to generate a position.  The GPS receiver is the device that the animal carries. GPS has been around since the ‘70s too but it wasn’t until the ‘80s that it became a platform available for commercial use.  There are no subscription fees associated with the GPS satellite system, it comes to the world for free through the generosity of Uncle Sam.

In Part 2, I will complete this list and begin to elaborate on other options associated with each.  For now you can find more information on our website at www.telemetrysolutions.com or by searching for our YouTube videos using the search term telemetry solutions on the YouTube search engine.

Wildlife tracking – new developments at Telemetry Solutions

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

Satellite communication in our GPS collars, improved connectivity in our UHF wireless communication collars, an automatic remote data download system for any animal no matter the size, camouflaged collars, neutrally buoyant GPS data loggers for penguins, a GPS data logger under 4 grams total weight, tiny solar powered GPS pods with remote download, simplified user controls for triggering remote download by UHF….now it’s just one click, and a solar GPS eartag with remote download in development for grizzly bears and the list goes on.   These are all things that we have been working on for the past few months. While that information in and of itself may not be interesting enough to put into a blog, we think that these technologies will be greatly beneficial to anyone who uses GPS data loggers in their wildlife conservation work.  There is no rest for the wicked though, we have more slated for release before Christmas.

Catch us at The First Annual Seabird Conference in Victoria in September and at The Wildlife Society Conference in Snowbird in October.

Quintin

More versatile small GPS tracking collar for wildlife

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

One of our team members here has been harping on an idea he wanted to try to eliminate the GPS antenna from the top of our small fisher GPS collars. He was sure it would be a smart move because without the GPS antenna knob on top of the collar we may have a happier fisher and customer too. So we tested it and it worked pretty well. It’s not going to work as well as the GPS antenna on top of the collar but it’s on the way to a fisher trapping session as I write this.

Available at 20 grams

We also put remote data download in it and Smart GPS and activity. We are supplying this one to the project just to see how well the new antenna idea works. Tracking wildlife is never easy and budgets are tight so we want the customers to get the most bang for their buck. The Smart GPS will go a long way toward that end because it can put an end to GPS location attempts during the time that the animals are sleeping inside trees where they don’t acquire GPS locations anyway. No point in burning battery for nothing.

Notice the lack of the GPS antenna on this collar. The whip antennas are for the UHF data download and the VHF transmitter.

Quintin

Run of the mill wildlife monitoring

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

When I wake up I don’t think to myself that I need to go out and track animals today.  You might but I don’t.  I think of things like, the microprocessor we use in our GPS collar has a long lead time, better get some on order.  Or I think something like, we should add another test to our procedure for passing equipment through QA.  It’s pretty mundane stuff people.

You go out and get your boots muddy, you see things, you hike for a living!  I’m stuck here writing this blog.  So do me a favor and call me with a tough problem, liven up my day for me.  If you just need GPS collars for deer, email that to Matt.  But if you really have a tricky situation CALL ME!!  The trickier the better.

And if you want to be more like me and never leave your office we’ll set you up with a wildlife monitoring system that allows you to do just that. Find a lackey to put your equipment on the animals and use our automatic, remote download system to send you data to your desktop. It works.

Quintin Kermeen