High-Precision Field Painting – How It Works

GPS Line Marking for Sport Fields

Key Difference Makers

Perfect Remarking

How It Works

The TinyLineMarker allows groundskeepers and maintenance crews to layout and mark multiple sports fields in minutes and achieve centimeter precision. But how does the robot achieve high accuracy when moving around the pitch and painting the lines?

Read this article to learn how the line-marking robot always uses satellites and reference stations to know exactly where to mark the lines.

Communication between satellite and robot

There are thousands of satellites orbiting our planet, and more are being put into service every year. We all use these satellites in our everyday lives for many different things; telephone, radios, gps navigation, satellite tv, weather forecasts etc. Our communication with the satellites becomes more and more sophisticated to the point that we all have access to global positioning information in our pocket via our smartphones.

The athletic field line marking robot TinyLineMarker uses the information from the satellites to place and mark sports pitches of all types. With a tablet, the user can place pitches directly on a map or use the robot to place pitches in a pre-defined location. This is particularly useful if a sports club has fields with fixed goal posts and the field needs to be painted according to these goal posts.

Communication Between Satellite, Reference Stations And Robot

The GPS signal from satellites can sometimes have interference. A simple change of weather can cause clouds to disturb the signal sent to the robot, where the RTK network comes in. RTK means real-time kinematics, and the network consists of multiple reference stations similar to cell phone towers placed in many locations throughout an area. These stations are permanent installations with many different purposes such as construction, land surveying, agriculture, machine control, etc. – and are now also for autonomous robotic athletic field line marking.

The reference stations constantly receive signals from the satellites to detect any offsets, delays, or errors due to, e.g., cloudy weather. When they detect any offsets, they can calculate a correction and communicate this to the line-marking robot in seconds. The robot can then correct its position continuously when working, which means that even if the GPS signal is disturbed, it will always know its position down to within 0.8”, giving the high degree of precision needed for sports line marking.

Whether you work at a high school or college, or you are in charge of line marking for a local sports club or sports complex, the TinyLineMarker® is the right tool for your job. The TinyLineMarker is the ideal line marker for small to medium sports clubs and teams with few sports types. With its low weight and simple operation, this model is an easy-going companion in your working day, helping you to deliver excellent quality with less manual work. The 2.6-gallon paint container is sufficient for a full 11v11 soccer field, which takes only 24 minutes for the robot to complete. Valuable time you can use for other jobs. The robot is easy to transport and operate so that a single person can manage all line marking and complete other tasks while the robot is working.

What Does This Mean for Groundskeepers and Line Marking?

The communication between the robot, satellite, and reference stations means that a groundskeeper can start the robot on a sports field, e.g., a soccer field, and 22 minutes later, he will have a fully marked soccer field painted in the desired location with a precision within 0.8”. All they need is the robot and the tablet.

It also means that once the field is painted the first time, it can be saved for future seasons and saves a lot of time and effort. When they come back in 6 or 12 months to do a re-marking, all they need to do is pull up the field from the last season on the tablet and simply press ‘Start’. The field will be painted in the exact same location, with the same degree of precision. All fields can be saved in the cloud to be available for future use.

Additionally, if a field needs to be moved, resized, or copied to a new location, they can do this from his tablet and simply start the robot on the new updated field.

To see how a groundskeeper typically uses the robot in his daily work, visit our customer success stories to see our customer testimonials.

RTK vs. Base Station Solutions

Using a base station instead of the RTK network is possible. A base station is a local unit next to the sports fields, whereas RTK is a service you subscribe to. The base station has the same purpose as the reference stations, i.e., to correct the satellite signal. However, as both setups rely on the accuracy of the satellite signals, they both achieve the same degree of accuracy and precision. This is why land surveyors, who rely heavily on high precision in their work, have been using RTK for years.

We asked a land surveyor about his experience working with RTK and base stations. According to him, using the RTK network for sports line marking is highly reliable and is neither more nor less accurate than using a base station. RTK is simply easier as you only need the robot to mark the lines.

Why a Local Base Station Won’t Work for You

Using base stations can involve challenges to the line marking operation. Watch this short animation to see some of the challenges users may encounter using this set-up.

RTK challenges

Using RTK has the vulnerability of coverage. If RTK is used in an area with little or no cell coverage, the robot will not be able to receive the needed satellite signals. This problem is the same faced by cell phone users / smartphone users who go to remote areas without mobile internet connection. However, practically all of our customers live and work in places where they can connect to the internet via smartphone and consequently, the robot works in these areas as well.

Satellite Signal Issues

Using satellite signals for line marking can be vulnerable close to high structures such as elevated side stands (spectator seating areas) in stadiums and arenas. The local conditions such as how high the side stands are and how many sides are covered may affect the result of the line marking.