Recreational Versus Professional GPS: What's the Difference?
Good decisions require good information. For GIS users, the quality of information coming out of their systems depends on the accuracy of the data going in. Confident decision making leaves no room for doubt over data accuracy. The last thing GIS users need to worry about is whether the data collected by GPS meets the accuracy requirements of the intended application.
When shopping for a GPS receiver, GIS users should evaluate GIS application against functionality and features of GPS receivers in their price range. Given the large number of products on the market, selecting the right GPS receiver can be difficult. With budgets tightened everywhere, some GIS users have begun looking at and buying less expensive recreational GPS products that are popular with outdoor enthusiasts. New features, such as ruggedized cases and differential correction, and a price tag often below $500 make these units attractive compared with higher-priced professional-grade GPS receivers.
But beware, as is true with most products, you get what you pay for. There is a significant difference in the accuracy of location data acquired by recreational GPS receivers versus the professional units. The 10-meter error typical of a recreational model won't cause a major problem for a hiker in the woods, but such inaccuracy may not be acceptable for GIS applications.