Montana State University


Montana State University
PO Box 173120
Bozeman, MT 59717-3120

GPS Lab Manager:

Diana Cooksey
Tel: (406) 994-5684
Fax: (406) 994-3933
Location: 245 Leon Johnson Hall

Mapping Project FAQs

College Office

Tips for Planning and Executing a Successful GPS Mapping Project

I want to use GPS to collect data and make a map - what do I need to know and where should I start?
GPS receivers can be used to collect location coordinates for point, line or area features at various levels of accuracy. Attribute information can be collected along with the location coordinates, and the resulting data can be imported into a geographic information system (GIS) for final map preparation and analysis. Some people think using a GPS receiver is as easy as using a calculator, and learning GIS is like learning a word processing program. Using GPS and GIS effectively is much more complicated than it appears. However, with proper preparation and training, a successful mapping project can be implemented. Please read on.

How much training do I need?
Before embarking on a GPS/GIS mapping project, we recommend at least one 2-day GPS workshop and one 2-day GIS workshop, or equivalent experience. We have found that people who start mapping projects without adequate training have great difficulty, and often come back to us for a substantial amount of individual help. To avoid unnecessary frustration and the potential for wasted time and unusable data, it is important to invest the time and money up front in proper training. It will save you added expense and trouble later on.

How/where can I take the training and how much will it cost?

  • GPS mapping and GIS courses are available through regular enrollment at Montana State University
  • 3-day GPS mapping workshops are available through the MSU GPS Laboratory for $525. Please note: workshops are only offered in the summer.
  • GPS mapping workshops are also available from private firms.
  • GPS training is available through the MSU GPS Laboratory for $50/hour.
  • ArcGIS workshops are available from private firms.

What are my options for GPS accuracy?
Often, people think they need greater accuracy than is adequate for the task at hand. Ask yourself what kind of accuracy you really need and why, and weigh the costs vs. benefits before you make a decision.

  • Approx. 5-10 meters without differential correction – recreational or mapping grade receiver
  • 1 meter ± with real-time differential correction (WAAS) - Trimble GeoXH
  • 10-30 cm after post-processed differential correction - Trimble GeoXH (provided certain requirements are met)
  • Cm RTK (equipment not available for use by non-GPS Lab personnel)

How much does it cost to rent GPS equipment?
The MSU GPS Laboratory is a self-supporting program. Charges for use of GPS receivers help to cover equipment maintenance, repair, and replacement, and maintenance of our software licenses. Charges for personnel services help to cover wages.

  • GPS Receivers
    • Trimble GeoXH $45/day, $255/week
    • 20% discount on equipment for cooperative research and education programs
  • Base Station Data Files
    • No charge
  • Personnel Services
    • $50/hour