In Review: MobileMapper Pro by Thales Navigation Inc.

June 1, 2005
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MobileMapper Pro is a great leap forward in narrowing the performance gap between cost and quality in the GPS marketplace...



Thales Navigation Inc.
Santa Clara, Calif.
800/922-2401
www.thalesnavigation.com
Suggested Listed Price: $1,750
It comes standard with WAAS correction, but the Coast Guard Beacon correction can be added for an additional $1,295. An external "plug in" antenna is also available.

MobileMapper Pro, the GIS data collector by Thales Navigation of Santa Clara, Calif., is a great leap forward in narrowing the performance gap between cost and quality in the GPS marketplace. The non-imposing appearance and rather diminutive size of this 6" x 2 1⁄2" package belies its capabilities.

MobileMapper Pro weighs in at less than 8 oz and fits easily in the breast pocket of a work shirt. It runs on two standard AA batteries (an AC adaptor is also available). But don't let the small size fool you. This little gem is the total package for collecting, uploading, downloading, processing and post-processing GPS data-what Thales refers to as a "turnkey" system. MobileMapper Pro has its own operating system as well as its own post-processing and mapping software.

Possibly my favorite feature of Mobile-Mapper Pro is the SD (Secure Digital) memory flash card*. Although the unit comes equipped with an easy-to-use serial interface cable, the SD card makes life easy if you have a port for this type of media on your PC. And if you don't, there are inexpensive external versions that plug into a standard USB port like the SanDisk (Sunny-vale, Calif.) Compact Flash Reader. These interface options are both self-contained in the MobileMapper Office Software package and require no additional communication medium such as Microsoft ActiveSync.

Coordinate Systems

MobileMapper Pro supports a variety of coordinate systems, and users can also create custom coordinate systems through the system's "Setup" program, which is fairly simple and easy to follow. The user simply scrolls down the "Setup" menu and answers a series of simple prompts.

Data collection is simple and quite straightforward as well. There is a generic "Feature Library," which is the Thales nomenclature for a data dictionary. Alter-natively, the user can easily create his own library in a matter of minutes. The digital keypad is operated with a compass rose set of directional arrows rather than a stylus. With each new job file he creates, the user collects positions in either the real-time mode or with the post-processing option enabled. And WAAS is auto-enabled; the screen will report the number of satellites as well as the WAAS status.

Transfer screen.

MobileMapper Office

MobileMapper Office is actually a two-program suite. MobileMapper Transfer moves the files back and forth between MobileMapper Pro and the desktop. For routine downloading of typical data files, the cable is a quick, simple and easy solution. However, MobileMapper Pro supports ESRI Shape files as base maps, and to leverage that functionality, drag-and-drop is a much more attractive option. The transfer screen has two windows: the left pane shows the files in MobileMapper Pro and the right pane shows the directory for Mobile-Mapper Office. If there is a smart card interface, the right pane could be navigated to the drive mapped to read the smart media.

MobileMapper Office also has mission planning functionality as well as the ability to display vector and raster data from external sources.

The actual post-processing in MobileMapper Pro is fairly intuitive. As with many products, the MobileMapper Pro user can make his choices from either the menu or an icon. The user selects the "correction" button (or option) and then selects a CORS reference station.

MobileMapper Office displaying Shape file background.

Submeter Accuracy

Below are the results of three separate typical handheld one-minute observations using the WAAS correction. Session 2 was post-processed using MobileMapper Office. (This station was selected as the sample because it was the only point from the NGS database (HARN) in the test.) Three other test stations had similar results over a month of testing.

SDGPS17 California Zone VI SPC N1878748.664 E 6285831.155 PID DC2129
WAAS 1 1878753.343 6285827.466
WAAS 2 1878752.403 6285827.458
WAAS 3 1878741.610 6285832.089
WAAS 2 (Corrected) 1878748.635 6285834.631

Note: The PID values for this station are published at the 1991.35 Epoch. The WAAS corrected values for this point match that value very close to the two-meter accuracy typically claimed. Different times of day with different satellite geometry account for the positional differences between 1 and 2 and 3. The corrected value for this station is close to true submeter accuracy using the published values.

Points displayed in a typical ArcGIS project window.

Exporting

Because MobileMapper Office supports standard file exchanges, it's quite easy to drop new points directly into CAD or GIS projects.

CORS reference station selection screen.

Documentation

As with many new products the documentation for MobileMapper Pro comes packaged as .pdf (Portable Document Format) files. The documentation is straightforward and easy to follow. Additional assistance is only a few mouse clicks away on the Thales support page at http://products.thalesnavigation.com/ en/support/.

There is now even an audio-prompted "Turn-By-Turn" routing extension called Magellan Direct Route available for MobileMapper Pro. The MapSend Direct Route is a map features database that comes on two CDs. The extension allows users to download points of interest into MobileMapper Pro. The user can then choose his destination directly from the MobileMapper Pro map screen, enter an address or search the database for a location. The unit will display the street route, give audible prompts and calculate the travel time for the shortest route. (Direct Route is priced at $149.99 in North America.)

Thales recommends an SD card no larger than 128 MB. Adding more base map files than that will inhibit performance.

Reviewer's Note: The current version of Mobile-Mapper Office is 2.60, and the latest receiver firmware version is 6.52. Users may not be able to repeat results from this review with earlier versions.

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