It was in late 1982 when at the National Geodetic Survey (NGS) we performed a test to prove that GPS could be used for precision surveying. Captain Sam Baker, R. Admiral Dr. James Collins (previous heads of NGS) participated. I also vividly remember the excitement of Dr. Clyde Goad, Dr. Ben Remondi, Dr. Gerry Mader, Larry Hothem, Chuck Froncheck, Roy Anderson and many other NGS folks that helped to promote the use of GPS in precision surveying. I am still proud to call them all good friends.
Shortly after, I delivered GPS survey units to the County of Lincoln, Nebraska, to another good friend, Larry Worrel. The first observing session started at 2:00 AM because the four GPS satellites were only visible at that time. Even for me, a semi-native of Iowa, it was cold!Larry did a fantastic job of promoting GPS to the surveyors in Nebraska, and was a pioneer in this field. He later helped neighboring states, too.
At the same time there were some surveyors who were making fun of GPS. One said “I would never trust my survey job to anything that had an antenna!” Another declared, “I’ll be happy with my total station for the rest of my career!” It probably took them a long time to outgrow their survey chains and learn total stations.
While we were promoting GPS, they said they would never trust their survey jobs to anything that had an antenna. Déjà vu!
Fast-forwarding thirty years later to 2012, I see the same surveyors complain about the position I took on LightSquared. They are quite happy with the problematic GNSS instruments they are using. They don’t care about new GNSS systems and signals. They don’t understand that a GPS receiver that cannot withstand LightSquared will eventually suffer from other interferences as well. They don’t understand why, in some areas, their GPS receivers do not work as well as in other areas. They have no clue what the low-cost, nationwide RTK network based on LightSquared stations could have done for them and for their children. When I first met with LightSquared executives, the first thing I asked was, can we build a low-cost, reliable nationwide RTK system? We started to work on that plan with then-executives team. The opportunity presented by LightSquared may be gone forever, or at least for the near future.
They don’t understand that a GPS receiver that cannot withstand LightSquared will eventually suffer from other interferences as well.
But many surveyors did what they were told and just followed the lead of lawyers and lobbyists, and that senator from Iowa! LightSquared showed us the problem that we had in our GNSS receiver designs. Transport Ministry reported that during two days 337 aircrafts reported failure of their GPS signals due to interferences. With or without LightSquared we have to solve our problem. This is what I did while improving performance, too. Others formed Coalitions and hired lawyers and lobbyists. And the surveyors hid their heads in the sand and said "I am happy with my GNSS receivers and don’t care about new modernized GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, and Compass signals, either."
LightSquared showed us the problem that we had in our GNSS receiver designs. With or without LightSquared we have to solve our problem.
None of these surveyors complain about why they have been sold receivers which have no protection. None of them ask why this trend continues. They still buy receivers with the same problems. They still don’t care that they don’t benefit from the new modern signals.
None of these surveyors complain about why they have been sold receivers which have no protection. None of them ask why this trend continues.
I have written several papers and given presentations to technical committees — including NASA, JPL, and academia—addressing technical issues regarding LightSquared and the solution for it. So far I have received not one negative comment from scientists and engineers regarding my technical solution. But I have received personal attacks from some surveyors. The support from many real surveyors still encourages me to strive to build the best instruments that surveyors and high precision users need. This is my deep passion and not a business searching for financial rewards.
Now I see those surveyors in chat rooms. They pose as GPS experts, but their vocabulary, logic, and their personal attacks on me regarding this highly technical issue, reveals that they still belong to the chain-survey generation. Fortunately, such surveyors account for less than 1% of educated surveyors who comprise the backbone of the survey profession in the United States of America. Benefit to surveyors aside, do they realize that in America, because of the monopoly of the two major carriers, it’s been estimated that we pay 80% more for our cell service than the rest of the world? This is what LightSquared was trying to change. Lobbyists and lawyers were successful and science and engineering failed.
Lobbyists and lawyers were successful to push back science and engineering, at least temporarily.
So, what’s it going to be? Will surveyors continue to stick their head in the sand, or will they look to the future and prepare themselves for even better GNSS capability and cheaper broadband?