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March 3-7, 2026

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3D Machine Guidance for Every Single Machine



By Randy Noland, vice president of sales and marketing, Hemisphere GNSS

The benefits of 3D positioning and guidance are well documented yet adoption remains mostly in its infancy. This is especially true when considering all of the applications and machines that are beneficiaries of the technology. So, if the technology is such a differentiator positively impacting safety, accuracy, and productivity, why doesn’t every machine (or even half) have 3D machine guidance as standard equipment?

Let’s discuss some of the ‘challenges’…

Steep (Learning) Curve Ahead:

There is the perception that setting up a jobsite for GPS (global positioning system)/GNSS (global navigation satellite system) site control is difficult. For those who are not familiar with the process (and for some who are) this can be true. As with any technology, there is a learning curve. The day is not yet here where a piece of earthmoving equipment is unloaded on a jobsite, engine started, with all parameters ready to go. There is technical preparation, but it is getting easier.

Realtime Kenematic Corrections (RTK) GPS/GNSS is a primary positioning ‘sensor’ for machine guidance. The principles for accurate kinetic positioning (i.e., machines and site supervisors moving about a site) require that the GPS/GNSS receiver at the rover receive a positioning correction, usually broadcast/received by radio. The RTK correction must be established in order to acquire and maintain a moving position.

Localization or Site Calibration:

A machine or GPS/GNSS rover must be localized or calibrated to the site for which it is about to work. If not calibrated properly, the machine will not be referenced accurately.

Digital Terrain Model (DTM):

A DTM is the digital representation of the site design. The design communicates grade elevations, slopes, building corners, etc., and traditionally is delivered as blueprints (paper). The blueprints are read and the information is transferred to the ground by driving and marking stakes (pegs), which offer a physical reference for the machine operator.

Initial Cost for Basic 3D Machine Guidance:

The initial investment may be the biggest challenge to having higher adoption. There are numerous configurations and extra features for different applications that can increase the cost, but the productivity benefits are easily justified if you have the right kind of work that requires these extra features.

3D machine guidance offers the same task that manual staking and grading has in the past. While adoption challenges remain, 3D positioning is maturing. With that maturity comes a more affordable, simpler to use value proposition. This is the largest opportunity trend.


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