Mastenbroek Limited, the leading European manufacturer of construction, utility and agricultural trenching equipment and related plant, announces the launch of its new GPS system for drainage trenchers, developed in partnership with Trimble Germany GmbH.
The launch marks a significant step forward in the positional and grade accuracy of trenching operations in land drainage and other applications. It will be offered to customers as an alternative to current laser surveying and installation equipment, with which Mastenbroek has a long-standing relationship with Trimble, and which the former pioneered in the drainage industry in the 1970s.
Based on Trimble's Field Level II technology, Mastenbroek's development of the GPS system is set to revolutionise land drainage as advances in 'precision farming' become ever more important to profitability.
The system boasts a number of impressive benefits over laser-based technology: field surveying times are slashed and drainage installation costs may be cut dramatically through more accurate deployment of gravel fill. An on-board computerised touch-screen display records every detail of the job, which can be easily downloaded for analysis and customer billing, etc.
There are many other benefits to the GPS, over laser systems. There is no need for regular calibration and there are no issues arising from dust, rain, fog, snow, wind or other related weather conditions. The system has undergone extensive field trials over the last year in a variety of site conditions and with a number of operators and surveyors, with GPS conclusively scoring over laser systems on every count including, crucially, speed and accuracy of drainage installation.
Mastenbroek will continue to offer existing laser technology with its trenching equipment. But, as Fred Clarke, the company's sales engineer explains, GPS affords greater accuracy where, in the case of laser positioning, uncorrected data is 'laser flat' not 'earth flat'. "On extremely long runs of drainage pipes, the base level of the project follows the curvature of the earth, which drops eight centimetres for every one kilometre of travel, while the laser level follows a tangent to the earth's surface. This leads to a small, but significant error." With GPS, this error is avoided.
The quicker, yet comprehensive survey achieves a 'best fit' solution for the pipe installation, taking into account the topography of the site, the maximum possible trenching depth, and the minimum soil cover required. Undulations in the field of any magnitude are easily accommodated. This solution provides the opportunity of considerable savings in gravel fill. On some drainage projects across agricultural land, for example, the imported stone can account for a massive 50% of the contract value. Any reduction in the amount of fill required can, consequently, lead to considerable savings overall.
On recent trials field surveying times were shown to be markedly lower than with comparative laser systems taking, in once instance, two hours instead of two working days. Survey work was carried out using a GPS system mounted on a quad-bike to produce a three-dimensional map giving an exaggerated view of the peaks and troughs across the field, from which the system calculates the natural water run-off courses.
From this, it is a short step to planning the pattern of drains to be installed. The system plans the depth of each run of pipe, which is followed in real time by the trencher operator with no need to carry out laborious calculations back in the office. All of the information gained from the survey is immediately at hand to the trencher operator on a touch-screen interface located within the cab.
Mastenbroek, which championed laser systems more than three decades ago, believes GPS is set to make its mark on land drainage with similar impact, bringing as it does the opportunities to reduce waste of valuable natural or recycled resources, and accelerated pipe installation.