Montana State University

New MSU GPS base station to aid students, researchers and community

May 29, 2007

The soon-to-be-replaced GPS antenna atop MSU's Leon Johnson Hall. MSU Photo by Jay Thane   High-Res Available

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
Montana State University students and researchers, surveyors and others requiring mapping accuracy within centimeters will have access to information from a new Global Positioning System base station soon to be installed on campus.

A GPS receiver will be housed near the MSU police station, while an antenna to broadcast the signal will be installed atop MSU's Leon Johnson Hall, said Diana Cooksey, MSU's GPS lab manager and instructor in the Department of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences. Cooksey shares the responsibilities of the new GPS base station management with Doug Smith of civil engineering.

Cooksey said most of the cost of the unit and its installation will be borne by Engineering Inc. of Bozeman and Billings, a 90-person civil engineering and land surveying firm headed by MSU grads Michael Sanderson (BS '94, MS '96 civil engineering) and Rick Leuthold (BS '84 civil engineering).

"MSU will use the station for instruction and research, the National Geodetic Survey will use it for global research, and it will function locally as a permanent survey control," said Sanderson. The system is being built to NGS specifications and will allow accuracy that is down to the centimeter.

That is a higher level of accuracy than consumer GPS systems, which will not receive the new system's signal, Cooksey said.

Officially, the system is called a continuously operating reference station, or CORS.

"It will be helpful for our students, our researchers, and anybody within a 30-mile radius doing professional survey work," said Cooksey. For example, one MSU project that needs the accuracy of the new unit measures carbon dioxide gases in the ground. Because of the unit's additional capabilities, Cooksey said MSU will be able to incorporate survey-grade mapping into its advanced GPS class.

Sanderson said Engineering, Inc. will be donating the system to MSU, and MSU will operate the system.

"We contacted MSU because of its surveying program in civil engineering and the GPS Lab that Diana runs," Sanderson said. "We figured that this was a good way to partner with the university."

Contact: Diana Cooksey (406) 994-5684 or