By Vanessa Spero, ELC Naturalist
The hortibots are coming! The what?
Imagine a technological device that promises to reduce herbicide usage by up to 75%. It doesn’t exist yet, but scientists are developing such a device. This 3 ft by 3 ft robot will be able to recognize 25 different weeds and will contain a variety of different weed-removing attachments (manual pickers, sprayers, lasers). How will it detect these weeds and find their locations? By using GPS.
GPS stands for global positioning system. The U.S. Department of Defense developed GPS technology and initially used it for military operations. The first civilian GPS users were subject to selective availability which altered the GPS signals received. In 2000, selective availability for civilian users was removed and GPS usage became more accurate for the public.
Using satellites, a GPS can detect a location within 15 meters. It uses measurements of longitude, latitude, and elevation and must be able to read 4 of the 24 orbiting satellites to be accurate. It sounds like science fiction but, using GPS technology is becoming commonplace in finding your way around a new city, locating hidden treasures (geocaching), and tracking a lost dog.
Sure, it’s great for the public. But it certainly goes beyond what the public can do. A GPS device is an invaluable tool in tracking more than dogs, it can also track wildlife. Some of our Indian River Lagoon residents such as sea turtles, manatees, and dolphins are tracked in order to determine travel routes, eating patterns, and hangout spots. GPS also allows scientists collecting water samples from the lagoon to be precise. By returning to the exact same locations repeatedly, they’re able to better determine the health of the lagoon.
Beyond our beaches and around the world, scientists are using GPS equipped balloons to monitor the holes in the ozone layer. When there is a catastrophic event such as an oil spill, GPS tracking buoys are utilized in clean up operations. Geologists even use GPS to locate ancient ruins! The list goes on and on.
Just think about how a simple device that can fit in the palm of your hand can do all that and more. Maybe it seems like a fun technological gadget but it’s making the world just a little bit smaller and easier to read.