RTK Rentals: Should You Rent an RTK System in 2024?

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Mark Wilkerson
Mark Wilkerson

Real-Time Kinematic (RTK) technology enhances GPS accuracy to centimeter-level precision. From automotive and delivery systems to mobility, and robotics, this precision location data is critical. 

One of the major avenues in which businesses and developers can access this technology is through RTK rentals. RTK rentals could offer a convenient solution for those needing temporary access to high-precision positioning. 

Before renting an RTK system, it’s crucial to understand the complexities of RTK technology, the types of equipment available for rent, and the potential challenges and costs associated with setting up and maintaining these systems.

This article will review the ins and outs of RTK rentals. We’ll weigh the pros and cons of renting versus owning to help you determine the most efficient and cost-effective path to achieving the ultimate location precision.

 

What are RTK rentals?

RTK rentals refer to temporarily leasing RTK systems, equipment, or services rather than purchasing them outright. You can rent various RTK equipment, such as RTK-connected drones, rovers, GNSS receivers, and base stations. 

Rentals can offer a flexible solution for those needing high-precision location data for short-term projects or to test the latest technology without a significant initial investment. However, it’s important to consider whether renting RTK equipment is the most practical and economical choice.

 In many cases, it’s not the best option due to significant initial setup fees, daily rental costs, and no performance guarantees. These costs can quickly accumulate, particularly when compared to the affordability and convenience of subscribing to an RTK or NTRIP service provider.

For example, subscribing to a service like Point One Navigation’s Polaris offers a far better alternative. Point One provides a fully managed service with exceptional benefits such as 99% uptime, unmatched network density, and performance guarantees. This level of reliability and nationwide coverage is not typically assured with rented RTK systems.

Plus, at just $60 per month, it’s significantly more affordable than the daily costs of renting RTK equipment, which can quickly get expensive–particularly if you run into any downtime. 

For most applications requiring high-precision location data, subscribing to an established RTK network like Point One is a more cost-effective and reliable solution. It eliminates the uncertainties and complexities of renting and setting up RTK equipment, ensuring you have consistent access to accurate and precise location data when and where you need it. 

Learn more about Point One Polaris 

 

Types of RTK Equipment Rentals

RTK Equipments

RTK Drone Rentals 

Drones are vital for applications like mapping, surveying, and farming, where precisely determining reality is key. Drones not only capture imagery but also the imagery’s precise location. Drone operators can then use this positioning data to georeference the image onto the Earth’s surface, transforming the imagery captured into actionable data for their particular use case.

The drone positioning is typically derived using GNSS constellations, such as GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, and BeiDou. However, achieving high-precision positioning can be challenging due to the location inaccuracies that happen with GNSS systems. 

RTK data can correct these GNSS inaccuracies by comparing the drone position to a nearby base station, providing centimeter-level accuracy. This enhanced precision boosts the productivity of the data captured and enables innovative uses, making RTK an indispensable tool for drone operators.

RTK Drones

RTK drones are necessary for large-scale land assessments, agriculture, and construction monitoring. Of course, getting an RTK drone is only one piece of the puzzle. Let’s say you’ve gotten a DJI Mavic Pro: you would still need to subscribe to an RTK service or base station to get access to the location data. 

Enter: Polaris. With Polaris, you gain access to a robust base station network, removing the need to invest in additional equipment. Polaris also offers unparalleled accuracy in positioning, optimizing the precision of your drone operations.

Plus, a free trial and one monthly fee makes life simple for everyone. 

Start your free trial 

GNSS Receivers 

Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) receivers are devices that interpret signals from satellite constellations to determine precise geographic locations. They connect to multiple systems like GPS (U.S.), Galileo (EU), GLONASS (Russia), and BeiDou (China) for comprehensive coverage. 

These receivers calculate a user’s exact position by measuring the time delay between the transmission and reception of each satellite signal, factoring in the satellite’s location. Enhanced by RTK, they provide accuracy down to the centimeter, crucial for applications in surveying, navigation, agriculture, and autonomous vehicles. 

GNSS receivers are fundamental in transforming raw satellite data into reliable, actionable positioning information. Often, these rentals are included within a rover rental or an entire GPS RTK system. 

Rovers

Rovers are portable devices equipped with GNSS receivers. They’re designed to move around and collect precise location data in real-time from satellite signals. Rovers are used extensively in fields like surveying, construction, and agriculture, where accurate positioning is crucial.

Individuals might rent a rover along with network access or a rover and a base together. But just like a drone, renting a rover is not enough: you still need a reliable RTK network with incredible accuracy and quick convergence times. 

With Polaris, for just $60 per month, you’ll get a fully set up and managed base station with access to an easy-to-expand RTK network driven by customer demand. With extra RTK base station redundancy in urban centers and 99.99% uptime, you get  affordable, global precision without the hassle. 

Learn more about Point One Polaris

Base Stations

Real-Time Kinematic base stations are fixed reference points that send out correction signals to RTK receivers, which could be in agricultural machinery, survey equipment, and drones. They’re critical for high-precision navigation and location accuracy and are at the core of advanced geospatial technology. 

These stations interpret signals from various satellite systems and calculate differential corrections based on their precise, known locations. These corrections mitigate errors affecting GPS signals due to atmospheric conditions, satellite orbits, and timing inaccuracies, offering real-time corrections to positioning data down to the centimeter. RTK bases are integral to larger networks that bolster high-precision services in construction, surveying, agriculture, and autonomous navigation industries.

When it comes to RTK rentals, a base station should not be on your list.  Setting up and maintaining your own base station is complex and can be impractical for short-term projects. It requires a clear, unobstructed sky view, reliable power, and significant technical know-how and experience–making it a challenging and often inefficient choice for rental.

Setting up an RTK and precise calibration of base stations is something only a professional can do. For best results, opt for a professional service like Polaris. 

Polaris offers:

  • Accuracy & Reliability: Unparalleled GNSS accuracy. With fast convergence times (<5s) on our RTK corrections network, you can get cm-accurate positioning on your hardware.
  • RTK Corrections Data: Get global corrections from a single mount point, with coverage across the US, EU, UK, AU, and CA. 
  • Easy Setup: You can set up in five minutes by connecting to a single NTRIP mount point.
  • Coverage: Polaris provides high-accuracy GNSS corrections even in areas without cellular coverage.

 

Pros of Renting RTK Equipment 

In considering the advantages of renting RTK equipment, it’s essential to identify scenarios where renting makes sense and adds value. 

Short-term Need

Renting RTK equipment, especially drones and rovers, is beneficial for a short-term project where you may not want to commit to investing in several pieces of equipment. 

While this is ideal for projects with a finite timeline, the notion of renting a base station is far less practical, and frankly, a bad idea. Setting up a rented base station can be complex and time-consuming and the calibration of a base station is highly technical–and therefore costly. 

Equipment Testing 

Renting allows you to test different RTK systems, like drones and rovers, in your operational environment. This hands-on approach is crucial for understanding how various models perform under specific conditions and helps you choose the best RTK system for your business needs. 

 

Disadvantages of Renting RTK Equipment 

Renting RTK equipment, while beneficial in certain scenarios, comes with challenges and limitations. These drawbacks often include limited usage, high costs compared to long-term ownership, and complexities in setup and operation, particularly with base stations. 

Understanding these disadvantages is crucial for deciding whether renting is the right choice for your specific needs and projects.

Limited Usage

Renting RTK equipment may initially seem ideal for short-term projects, but it can be restrictive. Over time, those needing frequent access might find the cumulative rental costs get exceedingly high. Moreover, rental periods often limit how much you can use the equipment, potentially hindering project flexibility and progress.

Expensive 

While renting avoids the initial purchase cost, it can be more expensive due to recurring fees, especially for high-end equipment. Setup and maintenance costs, particularly for complex systems like base stations, add to the expense. 

These factors combined can make renting less cost-effective over time, especially for those who require regular, long-term use.

Ease of Setup & Use 

Setting up RTK equipment, especially base stations, is a complex task requiring significant technical expertise. Incorrect setups can lead to inaccurate results, negating the precision RTK is known for. 

Furthermore, maintenance and troubleshooting rented equipment can introduce delays and additional costs, as expertise is often required to resolve issues, making the process more cumbersome and less efficient.

 

Access the Best RTK Network

While renting some RTK equipment might appear viable for specific short-term needs, it poses challenges in terms of cost, complexity, and long-term feasibility. 

Particularly when it comes to renting and setting up a base station—highlighted by the considerable technical knowledge required, the risk of incorrect setup, and the substantial time investment—make it an impractical option for most users. 

Fortunately, Point One Navigation emerges as a more practical and efficient solution, offering advanced RTK technology without the hassle of setup, maintenance, or the limitations of rentals. 

Whether for professional geolocation tasks or advanced applications like drone navigation, choosing Point One Navigation ensures you access the highest level of precision and reliability, making it the preferred choice over renting or owning RTK equipment.

Point One RTK base station density

Point One is affordable compared to renting an RTK solution. It also has the overall highest density of U.S RTK networks. Even in areas without cellular coverage, our service provides high-accuracy GNSS corrections with delivery over satellite. It tracks four major constellations: GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, and BeiDou, and also offers 99.99% uptime of the RTK corrections network. 

Ready to experience the pinnacle of RTK precision – without the complexities of renting, building, and maintaining your own base station? 

Get started with Point One

Mark Wilkerson
Mark Wilkerson

Mark is Point One's Product Manager. He's a veteran engineer & technical leader with more than 30 years experience in large, distributed, and embedded applications.

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