Category Archives: Specials

Mark’s Spectra Precision Dealer Meeting Report

I am just back from the 2014 Spectra Precision Dealer meeting in New Orleans. It was a blast and there were plenty of BIG announcements.

The biggest announcement is the new SP80 GNSS receiver:


It is about 15% smaller than the PM800 and shockingly it is a ½ lb. lighter (2.5 lbs. total) And that is with almost double the battery life. When you hold this receiver it feels right, the finish is exceptional. The design is simple.

I was impressed enough that I bought four without knowing the price and I have already sold a pair. The receiver is that good.

Best of all, first units will ship on February 20th! This is not some BS date that is going to be delayed for months, these receivers are real.

I will get into details on the SP80 below, but let me describe the BIG picture:


Ashtech’s legendary tracking and RTK performance has not been abandoned. This receiver is Z-Blade based and it runs on $PASH commands. The Ashtech GNSS team lives.

The SP80 tracks six constellations: GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, BeiDou, QZSS and SBAS. The SP80 is unique because it will fully fix on any of five of these constellations or a mix. So you can fix GPS only, GLONASS only, or BeiDou only. Time to fix is 50% better than the PM800, about 2 seconds for a 20-km baseline.

If you don’t think this is a big deal, let me assure you it is. This morning at 10:00 am there were two GPS SV’s above 15 degrees elevation at our office. ProMark 120’s with GLONASS computed locations in seconds, while BD-970 and OEM-6 based receivers struggled for five minutes to get autonomous positions. Most (all other) receivers require a GPS only fix prior to using other constellations.

Clearly Spectra has ended up being a good home for Team-Ashtech. I can tell that they have more resources and I suspect that being part of Trimble, they can throw significantly more weight around when sourcing technology.


I have been wondering about the future of FAST Survey.

Well, the next version of FAST Survey (Version 4.X) exists today. It is based on Carlson SurvCE version 3. (The version I saw was derived from SurvCE 3.80 and had been compiled on Feb 8th.) Not only does FAST 4.X support the SP-80, but it now supports the Focus 30 robot!

SurveyPro also fully supports the SP80. And SurveyPro sports a long list of new features too.

SP80 Details

Here are my notes from the meeting:

2-Year Warranty Standard. No firmware options–all options are enabled by default.

WiFi: the SP-80 has built in B-G-N WiFi so there is no need to push corrections from the data collector up to the head through the Bluetooth channel. This means you don’t need an NTRIP client in the data collector, and in fact you don’t need a data collector.

SMS Messaging (text messages) provide alerts if the batteries are low, or the base is moved.

Anti-Theft Lock: When you set a base you can lock the head. If the head is removed from the location, it locks and starts sending SMS (text) messages and email with its new location. The buttons don’t work and the only way for the thief to get the receiver to stop beeping is to pull the batteries. However when power is next applied, the head will send its location and refuse to operate.

Internal UHF Radio: 2-watt ADL. That is twice the power of most internal radios. The radio antenna connection points downwards into a special fiberglass pole which protects the UHF antenna on the rover. It is AMAZINGLY sturdy. The SP-80 has a uniform propagation pattern, this results in better range without rotating the pole. The 2-watt radio will generate a lot of heat, but it has a big finned heat sink on the head bottom that radiates the heat away from the antenna and GNSS electronics.

The USB connection is the standard mini connector and is accessible from the receiver side. The SIM and SD cards are also side accessible. Thankfully the SD card is full sized! (I can’t manipulate the micro SD cards, I really prefer the full sized cards and my new laptop has a hole that they fit into directly without an adapter.) Between the SD card and internal memory you have 31 gigabytes available. That should be plenty!

Batteries: two standard batteries. When you open the battery door (which you can do with one hand) the batteries don’t fall out on your head. The XP-80 runs for 10 hours, twice as long as an R10 but only weighs 0.17 lbs more?

The serial connector has a power input, so if you are using an external base radio, you don’t need a separate power connector to charge/power the head for extended periods.

RTK Accuracy: 8 mm, Static Accuracy: 3 mm

Tilt Sensors? The SP80 does not have tilt sensors.

Display: The SP80 display is brighter than the PM800’s and you can set it to never dim. This receiver has the best display of any receiver on the market. You can simultaneously see the SV tracked vs. used count, the battery levels, the correction latency and most importantly the Fix/Float/Auto status.

Serial Port: the serial port is pined to supply power to the head, so a base with an external radio can be directly powered from the radio’s battery without a separate cable.

IP67 (not 66!) sealed case.


This receiver is a big deal.

I can’t wait until I get my first shipment (around the 25th of February!) If you are thinking about purchasing RTK, and you operate under difficult conditions, this will be worth taking a look at.

Complete details were just made available [ here ]!

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FAST Survey 2.4; Almanacs; Carlson Survey Special for FAST Survey Users, Upgrading from Pre Version 3.2 FAST Survey

1. Pre Version 2.3 FAST Survey Notes

If you have a data collector with pre-Version 2.3 of FAST Survey, you should consider upgrading to the latest version of FAST Survey.
There is more information at the end of this note (section 4) on the update details, the upgrade is currently free.
2. Almanacs on the Ashtech FTP Server

Almanacs (used for mission planning) are no longer (as of November 15, 2010) being placed on the Ashtech FTP server!
From now on you should use the online tool: [ Online Mission Planning ]
It is a great tool, plus it handles GLONASS data. I won’t miss the old planning software very often and when I do, I guess I can pull an almanac off one of our receivers.
3. Killer 2010 End of Year Special for FAST Survey Users

Normally I try to keep the commercial chatter turned off on the AshGPS mail list, however this deal is too good to not share with you!
Carlson Software has just announced a fantastic offer for all FAST Survey users (with post Version 2.3—see the note at the end of this message for instructions on how to update to latest version at no charge) in the United States:
Until the end of 2010, Ashtech FAST Survey users can purchase one copy of the Carlson Survey 2011 package for $750 per FAST Survey license! The Carlson Survey 2011 package is FULLY FUNCTIONAL.
The regular price for Carlson Survey 2011 is $1,500, this special offer is a 50% discount.
FAST Survey is the Ashtech/Magellan/Thales ‘House Brand’ of Carlson Software’s SurvCE, the primary difference between FAST and SurvCE is the opening splash screen.
Carlson Survey 2011 is a full function CAD package and is the desktop companion tool to enhance FAST Survey.Carlson Survey 2010 directly reads FAST Survey CRD files, RW5, CL, PRO and SCT files; raw, centerline, profile files and alignment files.
All of your field work produced in FAST Survey will quickly transfer to Carlson Survey. All the office work produced inCarlson Survey will transfer to FAST Survey.
If you are interested in Carlson Survey, drop me a note by email or call, I need your FAST Survey serial number and the FAST Survey version you are running. Once I verify your eligibility, I will send you a written quotation.
Carlson Technical Support

One of the best values of Survey is Carlson Technical Support is FREE. No contract required. No credit card needed. You do not even need to be on the latest version. If you have a question, they want to answer it.
Maintenance is optional at Carlson, not a required expense like with other software.
For More Carlson Survey Information

Carlson Survey 2011 [ Info ]
Carlson Survey 2011 [ User Manual ]
Top Ten Reasons to Purchase Carlson Survey: [ Top 10 ]
Carlson Survey Training Videos: [ Videos ]
1-year additional ‘Upgrade Maintenance’ can be added to the ‘Carlson Survey 2011’ purchase giving you 1 full year of automatic updates: $150.
Network enhancements are also available with a slight additional cost: $150.
Carlson Survey Demos

You can demo a 30-day fully functional copy of Carlson Survey 2011, with a simple download. Click for the demo request form:
choose ‘Igage Mapping Corp’ as the dealer
click on the ‘+’ left of ‘Survey’ under ‘Select Product’
check the ‘Carlson Survey (ICAD / ACAD Addon) 2011
check ‘Email me with download site and demo serial number’
fill in your contact information
You will receive download information and a demo serial number by email.
The demo is valid for 30-days after you install, but don’t delay in placing your order for this special deal too long, it expires Friday December 31st, 2010!
4. Upgrading Older Versions of FAST Survey (Pre V2.3)

The current version of FAST Survey is 2.4.
You can check your version by starting FAST Survey and selecting “Equip: About FAST Survey”
Version 2.4 was released November 1, 2010 is available from the Ashtech FTP site [ here ]; this version is compatible with all but the most ancient data collectors:
YES:   MMCE, MMCX, Allegro CX, Allegro MX, MM6, FT-1
NO:    ProMark 3 using the internal receiver, Allegro CE
If you are using an older version of FAST Survey (pre Version 3.2), your older serial number won’t work with the latest version of FAST Survey!
I should be able to help you exchange your old FAST Survey serial number for a new style serial number.
Old (pre V3.2) FAST Survey versions have a number like:
Registration Code: 154-387
Serial Number: 1507-2475701-304081
Change Key: 25364
New (post 2.3)FAST Survey versions have serial numbers like:
If you have one of the receivers listed above under ‘YES’ and it does not have a xxxxx-CAA30-xxxx serial number, send:
  • Your Old FAST Survey Serial Number:
  • The Registration Code:
  • The Old Change Key:
  • The Serial Number of your data collector:
  • Your Name, Address, Phone and Email
to me by email ( ). It will take me a day to return you a new Version 3.2 serial number. (You can only update a receiver once of course.)
Then you can update the FAST Survey program on your data collector with the correct file from the Ashtech FTP server.
As part of the registration process, you will visit this web address:
where you will input the particulars of your receiver and the new serial number. The web site will register your data collector to you and return a Change Key for the new software.
Written details of the new version are available [ here ]

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Filed under Carlson, FAST Survey, PM3, Specials