After a couple of intense office-based months (good grief, where has the time gone…?) I am back doing more fieldwork in Northumberland.

As the OTA is being used for active training again, this time I am checking out features in the dry training area. I still check in with Range Control every day for safety reasons. Although the scariest thing I’ve encountered today was a big patch of nettles there is still the risk of coming across some military debris so Range Control just like to know where I am and make sure I get off site safely at the end of the day, which I really appreciate!

This fieldwork session sees a new data capture workflow based on advice from the incomparable Ed H., GIS officer of the NNPA. (Thanks Ed!).

I have purchased a second-hand tablet and installed QField, the mobile Android app version of QGIS, and the Fieldtrip GB app for data capture. I’ve also installed ViewRanger but haven’t tried it out yet. Brief thoughts after a full day of use:

  • The GPS precision is suitable for what I want without having to purchase an external bluetooth GPS sensor. Though I may consider doing that in the near future anyway.
  • QField lags a bit if I have too many layers in my shapefile. I made a highly curated mini-GIS just for today’s study area and even then I had too many layers. But surprisingly the OS .tif files I’d included also worked in QField without being modified with Geopackage! (Still working my way through forum advice on .tif format etc).
  • FieldtripGB is handy for data capture though it doesn’t have as much of a zoom as I’d like. The Authoring Tool is intuitive and keeps my notes focussed, so is a bit better than a notebook there. Having integrated photography and annotation and coordinate capture all at once is very helpful. AFAIK (so far) there isn’t the option to go back and edit a point once captured (at least, tapping on the icon doesn’t seem to do anything) so that’s a bit frustrating.
  • I’m new to tablets and touchscreen typing but it’s about as quick as using pen and paper so it will save me time in the office after fieldwork is over.
  • The test: the coordinates export easily from the Authoring Tool into a .csv which I can then import into QGIS as a delimited text file. The coordinates are in Lat Lon so I had to change the projection but everything is showing up in the right place. There are also some duplicates in the download which I need to sort out – I don’t know why this has happened.
  • Battery life is definitely an issue. I was worried about this so bought two powerbanks (one was a promo from Routledge publishing at the SPMA conference this April) and a 12V in-car charger. In a full day I drained the fully-charged tablet and both powerbanks. I bought a second-hand smart phone as well with both apps installed as backup, but I hope not to have to use that (I need enough charge to call Range Control and inform them when I’m leaving site, and in case of emergencies). I have also tried installing a power-saving app but when using the GPS I guess there’s only so much it can do.

Anyway, that’s my ramblings after a day using QField and FieldtripGB.

Screen Shot 2016-08-06 at 10.28.35 pm
Success! A sample of toay’s data capture, projected properly and appearing where it should. Huzzah!