FAQ

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Wild
life

FAQ

Welcome to our FAQ site. Here you will find the most asked questions on different topics. Please click on the desired topic. A new window will open in which you can choose your questions. Of course, you can always contact us for further information and whenever you have questions or need our help.
  • 1. Ordering Process and Details
  • 2. Testing the Equipment
  • 3. Setting up the Equipment
  • 4. Receiving and Managing Data
  • 5. Activity Sensor
  • 6. Storage of GPS collars
  • 7. Schedules
  • 8. VHF Beacon
  • 9. GSM Communication
  • 10. Globalstar communication
  • 11. Iridium communication
  • 12. VHF and UHF On-Site Radio Communication
  • 13. Virtual Fence
  • 14. Service
Here you can find information on the ordering process and details. Simply click on the desired question and the view will switch directly to the answer.
Here you can find information on how to test the equipment. Simply click on the desired question and the view will switch directly to the answer.
Here you can find information on how to set up the equipment. Simply click on the desired question and the view will switch directly to the answer.
Here you can find information on receiving and managing data. Simply click on the desired question and the view will switch directly to the answer.
Here you can find information on our Activity Sensor features. Simply click on the desired question and the view will switch directly to the answer.
Here you can find information on the storage of GPS collars. Simply click on the desired question and the view will switch directly to the answer.
Here you can find information on the schedules. Simply click on the desired question and the view will switch directly to the answer.
Here you can find information on the VHF beacon. Simply click on the desired question and the view will switch directly to the answer.
Here you can find information on the GSM communication. Simply click on the desired question and the view will switch directly to the answer. Please note that some things can only be changed by us (via GSM). So if you can't find your option, please contact us!
Here you can find information on the Globalstar satellite communication. Simply click on the desired question and the view will switch directly to the answer.
Here you can find information on the Iridium satellite communication. Simply click on the desired question and the view will switch directly to the answer.
Here you can find information on VHF and UHF On-Site Radio communication. Simply click on the desired question and the view will switch directly to the answer.
Here you can find information on the Virtual Fence. Simply click on the desired question and the view will switch directly to the answer. For a detailed description on the setup, please check the GPS PLUS collar manual available on our homepage and included on all VECTRONIC CDs.
Here you can find information on our service features. Simply click on the desired question and the view will switch directly to the answer.
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  • 1. What information do you need for producing the collars?
     

    We have listed all necessary information (collar circumferences, VHF frequencies, address details etc.) into an order information document which we will send to you to be filled when you are ready to order the collars.

  • 2. What is the delivery time?
     

    Under normal circumstances, our delivery time is 6 weeks from the time we receive all necessary order information, documentation and optionally SIM cards as well (for GSM collars). Please ask in advance for express delivery times.

  • 3. Can you tell me the collar circumference for my study species?
     

    Unfortunately not, this is the responsibility of the customer since neck sizes can vary a lot. However, we have extensive experience in producing collars for most species, and therefore we will double-check the values you provide us.

  • 4. I am lost with all the belt options, which one should I choose?
     

    Don't worry! If you are uncertain of the belt type, we will choose this for you based on the species and our experience. We have developed our collars over the years to suit different characteristics for different species.

  • 5. How can I get the collars here?
     

    We deliver the collars using global courier services. This enables to track the shipments effectively. We deliver to almost all countries in the world, excluding only a few where trade restrictions exist.

  • 1. How do I test the collars before deploying them?
     

    Our GPS collars are supplied fully programmed and could be used from the spot. They are delivered with battery packs attached and magnets which act as on/off switches. To test the collar, remove the magnet from the electronic housing (on top), do not remove the magnet from the battery pack which controls the Drop Off until deploying the collar. The collars can be deactivated by attaching the magnet again without any problems. We recommend testing the collars and data reception every time, with each collar.

  • 2. Can I test the Drop Off?
     

    No, the Drop Off is designed for one time use only to increase the reliability. If you fire it, you need a new one.

  • 1. How do I set up the equipment after receiving the collars?
     

    We will program the collars ready for you according to your instructions as a part of our service. You will need to install our GPS Plus software on a computer running Microsoft Windows. The GPS Plus software is available on our website and you will also receive a CD with the shipment. After this, you will need to register your GPS Plus collars into the software and optionally fill in a few collar details depending on the collar type you have ordered. All necessary information for setting up the equipment can be found from our extensive manuals, and a quick start guide is also available. If you would run into any problems, we are glad to help you.

  • 2. How can I check the collar programming?
     

    The collars are delivered with a printed file showing all collar settings, the same file is also sent via email or stored on a CD shipped with the collars.

  • 3. Can I reprogram the collars?
     

    Yes. If you have purchased our USB Link Manager, you can reprogram the collars quickly via cable connection. It is also possible to reprogram the collars remotely if they are equipped with VHF or UHF radio communication, GSM or Iridium communication since these options provide
    2-way communication with the collar allowing changes also after deployment.

  • 4. While trying to connect the collar, it does not respond to any command. Help!
     

    If you don't receive a response from the collar using the USB Link Manager, the most common causes are:
    a) No communication port has been selected for the USB Link Manager In the GPS Plus program. Choose the correct port from the GPS Plus program "Com Port" menu.
    b) USB Link Manager Driver has not been installed or a restart is required.
    c) The 5-pin communication cable may be misplaced between the collar and the USB Link Manager. There is a guide in the collars 5-pin connector. Check visually if the guide has rotated since this may sometimes happen.
    d) The collar has been used before and the battery pack is empty. In this case, carefully disconnect the collar from the battery pack and connect the 3-pin power cable from the USB Link Manager to power the collar.

  • 5. How do I fasten the collar to the animal?
     

    The collars have a bolt plate attachment and we ship the required tool with the collar. It's important to find a fitting tightness for the collar. It should not be put on too loose, in which case the animal is either able to get rid of the collar or ensnarl itself, and it must not be too tight. Depending on the species, there is a seasonal variation in neck size and circumference but more important is the age of the animal.

  • 6. How can I get in touch with you if I need help?
     

    Our customer support is available via email, phone or Skype. We can also have a TeamViewer meeting and connect to your computer and collars remotely under your supervision. If you are located in a very different time zone, we can easily arrange a support session also outside our normal office hours. If previously agreed, we also can setup equipment on site.

  • 1. How many positions can the collars store?
     

    The GPS Plus collars can store 131072 GPS Positions; any other data such as activity data uses different memory and does not affect the number.

  • 2. Can I get activity data remotely?
     

    Yes, you can download the activity data remotely via UHF (or VHF) communication on site if this option was built into the collar. Activity data from collars with other communication methods (GSM, Globalstar, Iridium) can only be obtained after you have retrieved the collar from the animal. To do so, you will need our LM2 Link Manager to connect the collar to your computer or you can send the collars to VECTRONIC for the data download.

  • 3. Can I get proximity data remotely?
     

    Yes, you can download the proximity data remotely via UHF data communication on site. Collars with additional GSM or Iridium communication can send proximity status messages remotely, but not the whole data sets.

  • 4. Can several users access the data at the same time?
     

    It is possible to send the GPS data automatically to different users via email (depending on the collar type). Multi-user access is implemented in a new GPS Plus X program which will be available later in 2013.

  • 5. I receive *.sms files via email, how to convert them to another format to see the GPS data?
     

    There are two options:
    a) If you have purchased an email auto reception license, the program can automatically receive, merge data files and export the GPS data.
    b) To do this manually, after creating the GDF, choose the "GPS" menu in the GPS Plus software and then "export" and choose the correct GPS file and select the file type you wish to export.

  • 6. How accurate is the GPS data provided by your collars?
     

    The average deviation of a GPS fix with sufficient satellites (3D validated) is less than 5 metres. Locations in a forest are more or less equally precise but the collar might need longer to conduct a fix (to get signal satellites).

  • 7. What is the DOP value displayed in the GPS Data file?
     

    DOP is the abbreviation of "Dilution of Precision" and gives an idea of the location's precision. High values indicate that the location is likely to be inaccurate while low values indicate a better precision, thus likely a more accurate position. The DOP for stored 2D positions displays HDOP horizontal value with the fix, where 3D locations are stored with PDOP position value in your GPS data file.

  • 8. What is a validated Fix?
     

    A fix is considered validated if the DOP is better than 10.0 and at least 5 satellites were used to calculate the fix. You can consider this fix to be of good quality.

  • 9. I have UTC correction activated in my collars, but still both time stamps are in UTC time in my GPS data file. What did I do wrong?
     

    The UTC correction affects only the schedules and communication time setting inside the collar. The collar follows the UTC time it receives from the GPS satellites. To get the data in LMT, this can be set up in the GPS Plus software. You can change the LMT column from your GPS data file by choosing "File" menu, then "Options" and the "Misc" tab in the GPS Plus software. After changing, all exported files show the correct LMT.

  • 10. I use a local grid system, can I convert the data to this format?
     

    To transform GPS data to local coordinate systems, you will need to get a license for our Geo Transformation program from us. Please ask us for further details.

  • 11. Can the program write to database (I work with Arcgis)?
     

    No, but the current GPS Plus can export Dbase files. We have further improvements implemented in the new GSP Plus X program which will be available later in 2013.

  • 12. Known Issue "Error: Invalid time zone settings" when viewing data
     

    If you get the following error message when trying to view collar data like positions or any other data, Microsoft updated the list of time zones on your computer.

    GPS Plus X stores the time zone configuration as text. If a Windows update changes the name of the configured time zone GPS Plus X can not find the time zone in the list supplied by Windows and the configuration is lost. This is intended, because we don’t have any means of identifying the original time zone.

    To solve the issue do the following:

    • Open GPS Plus X
    • In the Configuration Tree go to Local Settings -> UTC Correction
    • If „Use custom time zone settings“ is selected, choose your desired time zone from the drop down box and click „Apply“
    • If „Use windows time zone settings“ is selected, the problem should not have arisen. If it still happened, please select „Use custom time zone settings“ click „Apply“ and then reselect „Use windows time zone settings“ and press „Apply“ again

    After this procedure the error message should not appear again unless Microsoft chooses to change the name of your time zone again.

  • 1. What is the activity sensor?
     

    Activity is measured as true acceleration on three axes (forward/backward - right/left - up/down) four times per second. The scale ranges from 0 (no acceleration) to 255 (maximum measurable acceleration). To reduce the amount of data to be usable for the collar data needs to be processed and averaged. The user chooses a mode which defines an interval between 64 and 896 seconds (steps of 8 seconds) and also axis respectively processing settings (see FAQ/ActivitySensor/Modes). It is stored in the non-volatile internal storage and can be downloaded with VHF/UHF data communication and the LINKManager. Analysed e.g. with our free software Activity Pattern it will give you detailed insights about the animals behaviour and activity patterns.

    The activity sensor is also used to determine activity and health status of the animal and optionally to trigger a special GPS Schedule (please see FAQ/Schedules) to optimize data output and collar working time.

    A related system (mortality sensor) can also recognize the animal's death when no activity is measured for a user-defined time spawn. This event triggers the conduction of several GPS locations and a message to the customer (if enabled in collar). The collar will also switch its VHF beacon pattern to double pulse signals and switch the VHF beacon on for 24h / day. The scientist will be able to go out and check cause of dead and retrieve the collar.

  • 2. Wherefore can I use the activity sensor?
     

    There are many ways to use the activity data. They will give you detailed insights in the animal's behaviour (see examples below). It can now also help you to maximise your study period by coupling the activity to the GPS schedule. Please see FAQ/Schedules for further information.

    • Periods of Interest: Use actograms to find periods of special interest, e.g. rut or times of reduced activity.
    • Daily Activity Patterns: Identify regularities in daily activity patterns, find resting times and activity peaks.
    • Seasonal Activity Patterns: Find out how activity changes during the seasons in regard of intensity, pattern and rhythmicity.
    • Animal Well-being: Find aberrations from the normal activity pattern and calculate Degrees of Functional Coupling (DFC) to assess animal welfare during your study time (e.g. during open hunting season, heat stress).

    Further analyses can be conducted with our free software ACTIVITY PATTERN.

    Please refer to the manual (PDF Manual Activity Pattern).

  • 3. How do I analyse my activity data?
     

    VECTRONIC offers two tools to work with activity data. A first summary is giving in GPS PLUS software and detailed analyses are possible with our free software Activity Pattern. It can be used to visualize the overall pattern (Actogram) but also to calculate activity and resting times, rhythms and much more. Please check the PDFActivity Pattern Manual and our short Flyer (PDFActivity Pattern). Further analysis can be down using R whereas we have no VAS - R scripts nor the know-how to consult you here. We will try our best to bring you in contact with other scientist's.

  • 4. What are the different modes?
     

    Depending on your collar type and the firmware version you can select different activity measurement modes. The modes differ in the length of one sampling interval and in the axes and parameters used for processing of the raw data.

    Mode 1 (Default modus):
    300s Activity Measurement: The acceleration on the X and Y axis is stored in 296 s intervals, the time series is regularly corrected to 300 s intervals (Default mode).

    Mode 4:
    Activity Measurement: The acceleration on the X and Y axis is stored definable intervals (chosen in 8 second steps).
    The smallest Interval is 64 seconds, the largest 896 seconds. Mode 1-4 measures the same, whereas the time is only adjustable in Mode4).

    Mode 5 - Head Angle / Acceleration Threshold:
    1. Head Angle / Head up: Gives the ratio of measurements on the X axis within one sampling interval (definable) in which the head exceeds a user-defined angle towards the vertical axis.
    2. Acceleration: Gives the ratio of combined measurements on all three axes within one sampling interval in which the acceleration exceeds a user-defined threshold.

    Mode 6 - Acceleration Peak / Acceleration Threshold:
    1. The maximum acceleration measurements on all three axes within one sampling interval.
    2. The ratio of acceleration measurements on all three axes within one sampling interval below and above a user-defined activity threshold.

    Mode 7: Activity Measurement *:
    Channel 1 measures forward-backward motion, channel 2 measures head up/down motion. The period is definable in steps of 8 seconds (64sec = smallest interval).
    *its measuring the same as 1-4 but it scaled differently (values 5 times higher!)

  • 5. What is the right activity mode for me?
     

    The choice of the activity modus is very important and should be done well in advance.
    Later changes (after deployment) include the deletion of all previously recorded activity data in the collar memory!

    Conventional modes 1-4: In general you could say, the smaller the interval the better the data as long intervals weaken the informative value. Bursts of activity and phases of resting are mediated and you might get a non-informative average value.
    Special Modi: Modus 5 is very specific and is only useful in species with a distinct behaviour (feeding, securing etc.). This modus might not work satisfactory with species with small necks and indistinct head movements (e.g. wolf).
    Modus 6 is also very specific and it should be used only when you are sure that the provided data helps answering your questions.

    The collar has only a limited storage capacity and unless you can download the data in between and merge the datasets later you will have to keep track on the storage place. Our default modus is Modus1 as its interval is short enough to produce useful data but it's big enough to be recorded for a long period (1077 days).
    64sec Interval = Storage Capacity 233 days!
    128sec Interval = Storage Capacity 466 days!
    244sec Interval = Storage Capacity 932 days!
    296sec Interval = Storage Capacity 1077days!

  • 6. How do I define the needed thresholds?
     

    Finding the right thresholds is very difficult and has to be done with care. A wrong threshold could do some damage, e.g. result in no useful data (worst case). Best way is to include a testing phase (maybe even on the animal) and slowly narrow it down on the right thresholds and values (Adjusting values until they provide useful data). Please note that every change in the modus will erase previously recorded data.

  • 7. Can the data be send via GSM or IRIDIUM and GLOBALSTAR satellite communication?
     

    Activity data takes a lot more size to be send via GSM or any satellite communication and is therefore not yet possible. It can only be downloaded using a VHF or UHF Handheld (VHF/UHF communication available with collar) or using the LINKManager. If you can't use either, please send the collar to us and we will send you the activity data via Email. & Jagdwissenschaftler Deutschlands e.V.). If you are planning such a workshop and are interested in a VECTRONIC participation, please contact us.

  • 8. Does the activity sensor affect the working time or reliability of my collar?
     

    The energy demand of the activity sensor is neglect-able and does not negatively influence the collar / battery lifetime. It can help to increase the working time, especially with smaller batteries (1C,1D) with setting an activity triggered schedule to increase GPS positions when needed (animal active). It also does not affect the reliability of the collar as this feature is very robust and fully sealed in the electronic.

  • 9. Activity Raw Data Recording
     

    The GPS PLUS collar family electronic cannot host the activity raw data. This data is deleted after each averaging/processing point. The new collar generation (approx. 4th quart 2014) contains a new activity sensor for raw data recording and has enough storage capacity to store them. A field trial with this sensor as an external Add-On for a collar is ongoing. It should be available as a series product sooner than the new collar series. Please contact us for details.

  • 1. I have a delay deploying the GPS Plus collars; do I need to disconnect the batteries and how to store the collars?
     

    This depends entirely on your delay length. Smaller collars (1C, 1D) are affected more than larger ones. A GPS Plus 1C collar can loose up to 30 % of the battery life in 12 months, 1D up to 10 %. It is better disconnecting the battery if the collar is kept in storage for several months.
    Disconnected the batteries, you can store your collars easily for many months, without significant energy loss. To disconnect the batteries, open the screws on the battery pack and carefully remove the battery. Secure the 3-pin connector that it won't get damaged. When connecting the batteries again, please make sure that the O-ring is in place (battery connector) and that you have fixed the 3-pin connector correctly. Both connecting and disconnecting will take you less than 5 minutes and are safe to do. Sufficient storing space is dry and at room temperature, not in direct sunlight. There is no need to keep the batteries in a freezer. Also, please make sure that the collar`s magnets are not too close to each other since they may interfere.
    The VAS Drop Off has a limited lifetime, independent on if it was active or not. The Timer Controlled Drop Off will last for 48 months, whereas the Radio & Timer Controlled one will last for 36 months starting from the production date.

  • 2. After the storage, my main battery shows 3.10 V in the GPS data file. Is it ok deploying the collar?
     

    The battery voltage is no indicator for a full or empty battery. The voltage will stay more or less constant for most of the time and drops rapidly towards the end. Small variations during the study period are caused by temperature changes and do not indicate a change in the voltage level.
    A disconnected battery won't lose much energy but we do not recommend storing batteries for very long periods (1 year and more). To keep track of your batterie's capacities, please keep exact notes on active periods, schedules used and changed.

  • 1. Can I create my own schedule?
     

    Using our free software GPS Plus, you can easily program your schedules. The program is straight forward and will inform you about most mistakes. But there are some failures that might pass unnoticed. Whenever you prepare a schedule, please let it start on 01.01.2000. It is a security element that will guarantee fast recovery (getting back online with all schedules etc.) from a potential power up restart (internal reset to 01.01.2000).
    A schedule consists of one or more rules (see question 2). Please take care about the starting and ending points of your rules, especially if you use overlapping ones. If you program two rules for the same day, both rules will apply (e.g. discrete times and an hourly schedule). Please check all schedules thoroughly! A wrong schedule might cause many problems (e.g. no data, reduction or loss of the communication window etc.).
    Please note that every new schedule (GPS and VHF beacon) will overwrite the existing one, so you have to write a completely new schedule whenever you make changes. When all programmed rules are outdated, the collar will conduct a fix every 6 hours. If all rules are in the future, the collar will take one fix per week.
    Depending on how you want to transmit your data, you will have to restrain your schedule to a certain size. GSM and Iridium messages can only contain a reduced number of fixes (about 108 bytes). You might have to split it and only upload the rules for the near future.

  • 2. How do I use the different rules in my GPS schedule?
     

    To give you maximal flexibility, you can build your GPS schedules using three different rules. You can build your schedules straight forward using only discrete times but you can also prepare a complex network with many overlapping rules to include all important events and behaviors. It is very important to plan the GPS fixes as they should give you a clear picture of the animal's movement, home range etc.

      • Cyclic Rule: In most studies, the Cyclic Rule is used to build up the schedules. It is recording GPS fixes in regular intervals each day. Especially with bigger batteries, it is the easiest way to set up a schedule (e.g. one fix per hour (standard) or one fix every 5 minutes (proximity)). There are some useful combinations with either Discrete Rule or Rollover Rule events.
      • Discrete Rule: With the Discrete Rule, you can define fixed times for each day at which GPS fixes shall be recorded. This rule is useful if you have only limited battery capacity (< 2D) and can only record a few fixes per day. The danger of that rule alone is to misjudge your animal's moving, setting the fixes to the "wrong" times and miss the truly existing movements. It is a good rule to combine with the Rollover Rule.
      • Rollover Rule: Especially with smaller batteries and limited energy, it makes sense to use the Rollover Rule. Choosing periods (Cyclic Rule) or fixed times (Discrete Rule) with only a few fixes per day, you might get a wrong picture of the animal's movement or its home range as the main action might take place in between the fixes. The Rollover Rule does not restart each day (rules between 0 and 23:59:59) but continues in the chosen interval until the rule period ends (e.g. every 7 hours). This way, you will get GPS fixes at different times each day and cover most of your animal's movement. In combination with discrete fixes, you will get the most detailed picture of your animal's behavior.
  • 3. Why can I define more than one GPS schedule?
     

    You can define several independent GPS schedules which apply only for some specific events. The collar will use the special schedule when it is triggered by the specific event. The special schedule applies until it is not triggered any longer. The collar will then switch back to the default GPS schedule. Thereby, all schedules can be as complex as you want.

      • Standard GPS schedule: This schedule will apply most of the time - whenever no other schedule applies. If you want to focus on events and save energy for them, you can limit it for a rough survey and do only a few fixes per day.
      • Activity schedule: This GPS schedule is triggered by the activity of the animal. Whenever the activity level exceeds a user-defined threshold, this schedule applies until activity drops again below the threshold. It could be used to observe e.g. chasing events, the rut or the truly active phases of the collared animal. This schedule is available with all GPS Plus collars (firmware 2.8.9 or higher) with activity sensor enabled and it is optional. It has a higher priority than the Standard GPS schedule but will be overruled by the following ones.
      • Virtual Fence schedule: All GPS Plus collars can use the Virtual Fence option. Whenever your collared animal enters one of the defined areas, this special schedule applies. It stops one hour (user-definable) after the animal has left the area. The schedule within the fence could be much tighter but you can do it also the other way around, setting a Virtual Fence e.g. around the "uninteresting" feeding sites of e.g. semi-domestic animals. The Virtual Fence schedule will overrule the Standard schedule and the Activity schedule.
      • Proximity schedule: Collars with UHF communication can use the Proximity or Separation sensor (automatically included) and whenever they are in the vicinity / or leave the vicinity of at least one UHF-ID Tag, a special schedule can apply. In most cases, it will include a much denser schedule to observe the small scale movements, e.g. when a wolf pack chases a red deer (collared with UHF-ID Tag). It has a higher priority than the Standard, the Activity and the Virtual Fence schedule and will apply for a user definable time after the last contact.
      • Mortality Schedule: This schedule applies in case of a mortality event (mortality sensor active). It involves a special GPS schedule for GSM, Iridium and Globalstar to mark and communicate the latest positions. It overrules all other schedules but lasts only for a short time. After that, the collar will switch back to the default modus and conduct schedules as they apply.

      RANKING:

      • Mortality Schedule (highest priority)
      • Proximity Schedule
      • Virtual Fence Schedule
      • Activity Schedule
      • GPS Schedule (lowest priority)
  • 1. How should I program the VHF beacon?
     

    You are free to program the VHF beacon yourself and depending on your communication option (all but Globalstar). You are able to change the configurations remotely as well. The VHF beacon has its own battery and the VHF beacon schedule should definitely exceed the GPS schedule and also an optional Drop Off. You can calculate the collar lifetime including the VHF beacon lifetime with our free software GPS Plus (LifeTimeCalculator). The VHF beacon is energy demanding so you should activate it only for those times in which you have the chance to get out in the field and track it.

  • 2. What is the VHF beacon distance?
     

    The VHF beacon distance depends on many factors which can have an immense impact on the performance. One factor is the habitat of the collared animal. The more forested or rough the area, the more reduced is the range. The same applies for your position towards the collar. If you are on similar height, the range is smaller than the range achieved from an elevated position (high seat, hill etc.). Another factor is your tracking equipment. Having a big antenna and a good receiver will expand your range. Generally, the range varies from a few hundred metres to several kilometres. The average distance might be a few kilometres.

  • 3. I receive strange signals from the VHF beacon of my animal. What to do?
     

    The VHF beacon has several modes.

      • The first is the default (standard) mode which you will receive during tracking
        (default mode: !.....!.....!). It is user definable and can be changed (please see GPS Plus software).
      • Fast single pulse signal: collar has recognized a mortality event. Your animal is immobile and maybe dead (mortality mode: !..!..!..!)
      • Double: the main battery is empty and all options except the VHF beacon are switched off. Depending on your VHF schedule, the VHF Beacon, using its' own battery, will last for a few more weeks (emergency mode: !!.....!!....!!....!!). If in doubt for how long, please check our LifeTimeCalculator in GPS Plus or contact us.
  • 1. How is remote communication working?
     

    Using GSM communication, you don't only get data from the collar, you are also able to send new configurations to the collar. The collar is "listening" for new configurations etc. after it has sent a message itself. It is not possible to contact the collar without that, so when the collar is not transmitting data, neither you nor us can communicate with the collar. Depending on the changes, the collar will send a confirmation message to indicate that it has received the command (e.g. change of activity mode). Changes of schedules are not confirmed. The message size is limited to 109 bytes so you might not be able to send complex schedules but have to update them from time to time. Please see our manuals for further details. Your SMS will remain available at the provider of the SIM card of your collar for a few days (depending on the provider). If you get no confirmation or can't recognize your changes after that period, you will have to send the command again.

  • 2. Do I need to get SIM cards for my GSM collars?
     

    Yes, you have to supply us with working SIM cards to be integrated into the GSM collar. You are free to choose a provider with fitting contract conditions. The only requirement is the option "International Roaming" which will be needed at least for the testing in our facility. When you receive the collars, you are free to deactivate this service. But please be sure that your animals do not migrate and have to use foreign networks and that you, if you are not from Germany, do not depend on our Ground Station. You would not get data in these two cases.

  • 3. How do I receive emails via GSM?
     

    The collar sends SMS with 1-8 locations per message. These SMS are received by the nearest Short Message Service Center (SMSC) and forwarded to the used Ground Station (yours or ours). The reception is confirmed and unsuccessful transmissions will be repeated later with the next scheduled one. It is possible that different networks are used and some messages might get lost during this step (< 5%). If you use our Ground Station, we will forward all data to you as email. The emails will be managed by the GPS Plus software (either manually or automatically) and the data are exported into a usable format. If you use your own Ground Station, it will receive the SMS and make them accessible via the GPS Plus software.

  • 4. Can my SIM card get deactivated?
     

    Your provider might deactivate the SIM cards if they are inactive for a while (neither send nor receive messages). You have to make sure that your provider knows about their usage in GPS GSM collars and regularly check them. If they got deactivated, please contact the provider as fast as possible. The SIM card is completely sealed within the collar and it is difficult to remove and replace them. The collar might get damaged by this process.

  • 5. I have not received SMS from the collar for a week, usually I get one SMS daily. What is wrong?
     

    There might be several reasons and most of them are completely harmless. Maybe the animal moved into an area without GSM coverage and was not able to transmit the SMS yet. Having GSM coverage again, it will add all unsent SMS to the next scheduled ones; all positions will reach you with time. Please check your schedule, maybe it has been changed and the SMS isn't due yet. Another reason might be missing credit either on your collar or on your ground station. Please check with your provider. If these options can be excluded, please check the VHF beacon (low energy signal) and the collar (e.g. mechanical damage) in the field. In addition, please get in touch with us and send us the most recent data (message raw data). We will check them and see if there are any indicators for any kind of problem and discuss further steps with you.

  • 6. Can I get activity data via GSM communication?
     

    At this point, it is not possible to transfer activity data via GSM communication. The amount of data is too large. Activity data can only be transmitted via VHF and UHF Radio Communication or with the LM2 Link Manager cable connection.

  • 7. Can I switch off my GSM Ground Station at the weekend?
     

    If the Ground Station is switched off, no messages are received. Depending on your provider, the SMS will be stored in the system for about 5 days before they are deleted. When the Ground Station is switched on again, it will receive all waiting SMS. It has a small internal storage (about 40 SMS) but might not be able to store and forward all incoming SMS at once. Please note that the Ground Station must be connected to a computer to further process the SMS. Without that, no further SMS will be received and might get deleted. As the reception of these SMS has been confirmed to the collar, it will not resend them.

  • 1. What are the differences between Globalstar and Iridium communication?
     

    Both are satellite communication systems to transfer the GPS and event data of your collar directly to your office. There are several differences between them including satellite coverage, message size, data transmission confirmation and transmission success, pricing and remote contact abilities. A two-way communication is only possible with Iridium satellite communication and it has several advantages over Globalstar. The Iridium modem in the collar is significantly heavier than a Globalstar modem and not suitable for some study species. Please contact us to discuss the usability for your specific study idea.

  • 2. How do I receive data from Globalstar collars?
     

    The collar sends out messages containing 1 or 2 positions. Each message is sent several times to increase the chance for a successful transmission. The receiving satellite does not confirm the reception, so it is possible that some messages do not reach you, especially in areas with dense forests or in border regions for satellite reception. All positions are stored in the collar, so no data will be lost. The receiving satellite sends the data to a Globalstar gateway in that region which forwards the message to our server. We store your data and forward them to your listed email addresses.

  • 3. Can I get activity data as well?
     

    At this point, it is not possible to transfer activity data via Globalstar satellite communication. The amount of data is too large. Activity data can only be transmitted via VHF and UHF Radio Communication or with the LM2 Link Manager cable connection.

  • 4. How many of the positions can I get using the Globalstar communication?
     

    To make a transmission via Globalstar, the collar needs a clear path to the Globalstar satellite in the orbit. Trees etc. can hinder the signal and interrupt a message. A Globalstar message with one position is smaller, so it is more likely that it comes through. A message containing 2 GPS positions is bigger and might be interrupted more often as it takes longer to transmit this message. In contrast to GSM and Iridium, the collar gets no confirmation, neither for a failed nor for a successful transmission, so the setup is even more important.

  • 5. How can I pay the transmission fees?
     

    To use Globalstar, you will have to sign a contract (at least for 1 year) with a monthly subscription and transmission fees. You can pay them in advance (pre-payment) or get invoiced later on by us (post-payment) whereas pre-payment is significantly cheaper. Pre- and post-payment can be paid or will be invoiced for fitting periods (e.g. depending on amount, every 3 months). Please contact us for the contract conditions.

  • 1. What are the differences between Iridium and Globalstar communication?
     

    Both are satellite communication systems to transfer the GPS and event data of your collar directly to your office. There are several differences between them including satellite coverage, message size, data transmission confirmation and transmission success, pricing and remote contact abilities. A two-way communication is only possible with Iridium satellite communication and it has several advantages over Globalstar. The Iridium modem in the collar is significantly heavier than a Globalstar modem and not suitable for some study species. Please contact us to discuss the usability for your specific study idea.

  • 2. How is remote communication via Iridium working?
     

    Using Iridium satellite communication, you can not only receive data from the collar, you are also able to send new commands to the collar remotely. Using GPS Plus, you can do most changes yourself. You will have to set up your GPS Plus system by registering your collar (including IMEI number) and set up the outgoing mail configuration. Then simply send out the commands. We will gladly guide you through the set up. Please be sure about what you do as it might take a while to redo a wrong command. If you are unsure about the changes etc., you can always contact us and we will check your commands and / or send them out from here. The collar "listens" for new commands after it has sent a message itself. It is not possible to contact the collar without that, so when the collar is not transmitting data neither you nor us can communicate with the collar. Depending on the changes, the collar will send a confirmation message to indicate that it has received the command (e.g. change of activity mode). Changes of schedules are not confirmed. The commands which were not received by the collar, will remain available in the Iridium system for 5 days at maximum. If you get no confirmation and you don't see any changes after that period, you will have to send the command again. Please see our manuals for further details.

  • 3. How many positions should I use for my Iridium transmission?
     

    To perform a transmission via Iridium, the collar needs a clear path to the satellite in the orbit. Trees etc. can attenuate the signal and interrupt the message. The size of your message (see below) is important for the likeliness of a successful transmission. The message reception will be confirmed by the Iridium system and all failed attempts will be repeated with the next scheduled transmission. Iridium messages consist of up to 3 blocks with GPS fixes. The first block contains 1-4 GPS fixes, the second block additional 8 at most (12 in total so far) and the third and last block additional 6. In total, 18 fixes can be transmitted in one message. The remaining space within a block will be filled by Iridium, so the message won't get smaller if you choose less than 4 (1-3), 12 (5-11), 18 (13-17). The more blocks have to be sent, the more likely it is that the connection is interrupted within a transmission and the message has to be resent. Please note that you still pay only for the exact number of fixes, not the blocks.
    We recommend to start a project in dense forests with 4 GPS fixes per message and in semi or fully open habitats up to 12 positions per message. Only with absolutely no obstacles, we recommend to go with the possible 18.
    In some situations it makes sense not to fill a block completely and choosing numbers other than 4, 12, 18. The message size won't be reduced but you could get shifting transmission times and so enhance the chance to get working communication windows. Relying on a specific communication time, you might risk setting up a time when your study species is e.g. mostly under cover (thick bushes, den etc.) and don't get data.

  • 4. How do I receive data from Iridium collars?
     

    The Iridium satellite receives and confirms the collar message and forwards your message either to an Iridium relay station or to another satellite if no station is available. The second satellite will also try to contact a relay station and so on until it is received by a relay station. That makes it usable worldwide. The relay station forwards the data to our servers. We store the data and forward it to you. Remote communication works the same way.

  • 5. Can I get activity data as well?
     

    At this point, it is not possible to transfer activity data via Iridium satellite communication. The amount of data is too large. Activity data can only be transmitted via VHF and UHF Radio Communication or with the LM2 Link Manager cable connection.

  • 6. How many of the recorded positions can I get using Iridium communication?
     

    Each transmission of GPS data is confirmed by the Iridium system and all failed transmissions are resent with the next scheduled one. Some positions might reach you with a delay but you will get all data points with Iridium. Single messages might get lost during transferring into email and during the forwarding process but this should be very rare.

  • 7. How can I pay the transmission fees?
     

    To use Iridium, you will have to sign a contract (at least for 1 year) with a monthly subscription and transmission fees. You can pay them in advance (pre-payment) or get invoiced later on by us (post-payment) whereas pre-payment is significantly cheaper. Pre- and post-payment can be paid or will be invoiced for fitting periods (e.g. depending on amount, every 3 months). Please contact us for the contract conditions.

  • 1. How does the communication work with VHF / UHF?
     

    In contrast to GSM and the satellite communication methods, VHF and UHF Radio communication work on demand, which means that you will have to go to your study site and actively contact the collar for data transmission. You need either a VHF or a UHF Handheld Terminal. The range of both methods is smaller than the range of the VHF beacon. Therefore, you will have to track your animal to get in range of VHF or UHF. Once you are in range of VHF or UHF, the Handheld Terminal will show all received and registered collars in range. After it has sent a wake-up command, you are able to download data and upload configurations remotely. The Handheld Terminal will confirm successful transmissions. It is possible that your animal moves out of range so that the connection is interrupted and you have to retry. Transmissions come in blocks so you won't have to start from zero.

  • 2. What is the VHF / UHF communication distance?
     

    The VHF / UHF range depends on the habitat of your collared animal and also of you and your hardware (position towards the animal and size of your antenna). Thick vegetation, rough terrain or unnatural objects (fences) may decrease the range and deflect your signal. The higher you are towards the collar, the better the range. VHF communication works within some hundred metres, UHF communication works in a range of a few kilometres but both can be drastically reduced if you are in an unsuitable area.

  • 3. What is the difference between VHF and UHF Radio communication?
     

    Both systems work more or less on the same base whereas VHF is slightly more energy efficient (due to low power transmissions) and faster. UHF communication has a far bigger range than VHF communication (some kilometres vs. some hundred metres). UHF cannot be used in our GPS PRO Light collars. In these collars, only VHF communication (in addition to GSM communication) is possible. For new projects, we recommend the use of UHF communication as it offers some further features. It enables the use of all External Sensor devices and it is also used to release a Radio & Timer Controlled Drop Off.

  • 4. I can't communicate with my VHF / UHF collar. What is wrong?
     

    There could be several reasons for not being able to communicate with the collar. Please check if your collars are registered in the Handheld Terminal and the frequencies are correct (Handheld communication frequency as well as collar frequency). Please also check that your collar is actually in communication mode (communication window). Please note that the range of the VHF beacon is far bigger than that of VHF and UHF communication. It is possible that you are still out of range.

  • 1. How do I program a Virtual Fence?
     

    You can either program it in GPS Plus directly by adding one post after another (GPS coordinates) or import a Virtual Fence file (*.kml) from Google Earth. It is much easier and faster as you are able to draw your areas instead of defining each post. Please do not "draw" the polygons in Google Earth as that creates dozens of posts where one would suffice and you will exceed the 70 allowed post / get a failure notice. There is a limit of 70 posts for one Virtual Fence file and there is only a general failure message from GPS Plus when exceeding it.

    The Virtual Fence is created with one or more polygons, and an "Inside Point" for each polygon. This Inside Point defines whether the Virtual Fence area is located inside the polygon or if the Virtual Fence area surrounds the polygon. Through a combination of polygons and Inside Points, a complex Virtual Fence can be created and stored as Virtual Fence Collection (VCF).

    Having that you can program a different GPS schedule for the Virtual Fence area (normal GPS schedule with all potential rules). This set (Virtual Fence polygons and GPS schedule) can be uploaded to a collar, either using the LM2, the Hand-held or a remote communication option. Please note that there are certain size limitations for file size (see below).

  • 2. File limitations for uploading a Virtual Fence set-up
     

    Using the Link Manager or Handheld Terminal to send the .VFC to the collar, the maximum size of the .VFC is 385 bytes, the maximum size of the associated GPS schedule is 490 bytes. The actual size of the .VFC is given in the bottom left corner of the GPS schedule editor.

    If you transfer the .VFC via IRIDIUM or GSM, Virtual Fence Collection and GPS schedule are transferred in one message, so both files must be smaller. For IRIDIUM or GSM 7-bit coding, the maximum size of the two files is combined 129 bytes, for GSM 6-bit coding, the maximum size of the two files is 109 bytes.

  • 3. How exactly does it work?
     

    The collar will check with each GPS Fix whether it is within or outside of its programmed Virtual Fence Areas (reference point). It than switches its schedule and also sends a message if these options are programmed. The Virtual Fence modus is integrated into the Interactive Programming so the Virtual Fence schedule could be overrules by the Proximity Schedule (FAQ / Schedules).

  • 4. Size and numbers of polygons within a Virtual Fence set-up.
     

    The size of single polygons for a Virtual Fence is very important.
    It totally depends on the probability of its encounter (GPS fix within Virtual Fence area). Saying a lynx is doing a fix every 5 hours and the area is only a few hundred meters in size it will be very likely that the lynx enters and leaves the area without the collar doing a GPS fix during that time. The entering and leaving will thereby pass unnoticed! That does not only count for the overall size but especially for extensions / branches / arms within a polygon.

    The number of polygons is more or less secundary to the upper point. Whatever makes sense! But you will have to take into account the file size again. On big simple polygon does take less storage place then many small / medium sized complex ones (each post counts).

  • 1. Which services do you offer?
     

    In addition to our unlimited customer support via email and phone, we manage most of the remote communication between you and your collars. We will check your schedules and commands and forward them as fast as possible with your chosen communication method (GSM or Iridium). With GSM (using our Ground Station), Globalstar and Iridium satellite communication, we manage all your incoming data, store and forward them to you.

  • 2. What kind of repair / refurbish services do you offer?
     

    In addition to our unlimited customer support via email and phone, we offer the following services:

    • Data download (free of charge)
    • Technical check-up (free of charge)
    • Software updates (free of charge)
    • Renewal of cables and antenna cables within the belt (free of charge)
    • Change of batteries (service not charged)
    • Refurbishment with new belt, refitting to other species (service not charged)
    • Further repairs and modifications upon consultation
  • 3. What do I need to do if I send a collar to VECTRONIC for refurbishment?
     

    When you decide to send us your collars, please include a letter stating your institution, the collar IDs and the general intention of the return (refurbishment, repair, data download etc.). We will contact you after we have tested your collars (free of charge) to discuss the details of your order. If you are sending from non-EU countries, please send us a note with name, collar ID, reason for return, and a copy of your Proforma Invoice via Email as well so that we are able to handle customs.

  • 4. How long is the service delivery time?
     

    The normal delivery time is 6 weeks as well but we might need up to 8 weeks in our peak season (winter). Depending on what has to be done, we might be much quicker (e.g. battery replacement). If it's urgent, we will try everything to send the refurbished collar back to you as fast as possible but we can't neither skip intensive testing phases nor rush in production.

  • 5. Can I change the battery pack and Drop Off by myself?
     

    You are able to exchange the batteries of most collars yourself. It is easy and can be done within 5 minutes directly in the field. Just remove the screws, carefully remove the battery and connect the new battery. Please be sure to add the provided seal (O-ring) so that no water can enter. Only one kind of the 1C battery pack cannot be changed by the customer, we will inform you if that is the case with your collar and advice if a switch to the new model is possible. Maybe a new belt would be needed.
    The Drop Off system is integrated into the battery pack. It cannot be changed on its own. Please note that it is a device which can only be used once and that an unused Drop Off can't be incorporated into a new battery pack.
    You can change the batteries yourself or you can send your collar to VECTRONIC for refurbishment. The replacement of the battery is part of our service and is not charged (except battery cost). We recommend doing so if your collar has been deployed for a few years or if the belt is visibly worn down. The cables and antennas within the belt should be replaced from time to time. It is done by our staff as part of our service. It's not possible to exchange antennas and cables on your own.

  • 6. Is it possible to re-deploy the collar later on another animal species?
     

    Yes, a re-deployment to another animal species is possible in most cases. We can prepare a new belt and fix the used electronics on it. Sometimes a refitting of the old belt also is possible. The batteries are also interchangeable so that you can go up and down with the battery size. For further changes and modifications, please get in touch with us.

  • 7. Do you offer any workshops to instruct users?
     

    Our software is mostly straight forward and easy to use but our service team is ready to accompany you during the setup and answer all questions etc. If necessary, we could also visit you at your study site and give you some training.
    We do not offer workshops on our own but our collars and the use of them are sometimes taught and shown in workshops e.g. in 2012: Institute of Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW Berlin) summer school, VWJD workshop (Vereinigung der Wildbiologen & Jagdwissenschaftler Deutschlands e.V.). If you are planning such a workshop and are interested in a VECTRONIC participation, please contact us.