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The future of wildlife telemetry.

From the manufacturing end of things wildlife telemetry has certainly gotten more interesting in the last few years.  When I started in this industry in 1979 it was just a question of how big your transmitter was going to be.  Then in the 80’s along came GPS.  Our friends in The Great White North broke that market open and slowly during the 90’s others jumped on that bandwagon.  Telemetry Solutions jumped on in 2006 with our own GPS wildlife tracking design. That was interesting for us but in 2007 it really started to get interesting when we developed a GPS unit that only weighed 15 grams.  But that’s just the electronic weight, with the battery it was over 25 grams.  Still exciting though, at least in 2007.

Then in 2008 a wildlife biologist from The U.S. Forest Service presented himself in our office asking for even smaller GPS collars.  I’ve told this story here before.  He asked to take a unit back to The Sierras to prove to his boss that the technology would work and he also asked us to reduce the product size and weight and add remote download.  He left, we exchanged a few emails and yada, yada, yada we came up with a product that would work for him.   So the answer to the question “Where is this all headed?” is this, -Wherever you tell us to head it!  You, the customers, are in the driver’s seat.

A few months later we got a call asking for GPS for quail.  The young guy on the phone asked his question and before I could answer he said, “I know, it’s going to be 3 more years right?”  I replied, “No, actually we can do that now.”  But I didn’t just pull one off the shelf, we had to put some effort into it.  Last week a bird biologist told me that our 5.9 gram GPS was “too heavy.”  Hello Betty!  I think I’ve blogged about this before too, I heard it at a conference once.  “Ok, what will it take?” I asked.  His reply – 4 grams!  This includes battery weight friends.

After we hung up, I waited for everyone to leave the office and sat here with the electronics on my desk, just staring at it wondering how we can reduce the weight.  It’s mostly battery, the GPS board only weighs 2.4 grams.  I used to ride motorcycles with a guy who would buy expensive carbon fiber parts to cut a few ounces off his Ducati.  He needed to lose 15 pounds himself but that would be too easy, so he bought carbon fiber instead.  But it’s that motorcycle racing mentality that I needed to be in so I sat down at a work bench and started in.  In 5 minutes I had cut .2 grams.  Not bad eh?  Then I cut another .3, that took a little longer.  Our engineers worked on it some more the next day and we’re at 4.2 grams right now so there’s only .2 left to go to get to that magical 4 gram number.

Bird GPS under 7 grams with automatic data download to your PC exists now because someone emailed me and asked for it.

I have a friend with a masters degree in psychology who likes to tell his friends that certain feelings, thoughts, behaviors, etc are “on them.”  Well now I’m telling you that whatever direction that wildlife telemetry is headed is on you.  So take 5 minutes and write an email, better yet, pick up the phone and tell us where you want this to go.

And check us out on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/user/TelemetrySolutions

Quintin


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