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June 4, 2017

GSSI UtilityScan DF Review

GSSI Structure Scan Mini XT review

The GSSI UtilityScan DF Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) was delivered in several pieces in a large cardboard box, where it had been dismantled for shipping. We were able to assemble this GPR from its component parts without reading the instructions in about fifteen minutes. When we later had to unpack it from its shipping box and reassemble it at short notice, it probably took five. Most people would either keep it fully assembled or just remove the handle for transportation in a van which means 1-2 minutes of typical setup time.

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    GSSI UtilityScan DF Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) with four-wheel cart

    This GPR is robust and the solutions implemented are simple and effective. One solid piece of injection moulded plastic forms a thick frame which surrounds the antenna on all sides. Four good sized wheels slot into the frame, and the single piece plastic handle pits inside it with a clamp to hold it in position. The handle has no adjustment and no moving parts.

    The antenna box contains 300 and 800 MHz dipoles and the integrated electronics in an impressively small package, which is further contained within an injection moulded plastic box for weather proofing. All the connections are housed within this box, which is then sealed for use. The cables for the wheel, the marker button and the controller exit through weatherproof vents.

    The batteries are standard lithium laptop style batteries, with a charge indicator so you can see which ones are full and how much charge is remaining. The battery is connected to a cable and slotted into position on the antenna – simple and effective. One battery lasted us all day and at no point did the battery ever come loose.

    GSSI UtilityScan DF Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) with four-wheel cart

    The overall package is quite bulky given how small the electronics are, but one thing for certain is that its robust. We did not experience any problems with any of this setup throughout the job. The wheels do tend to collect debris which is annoying for bringing mud into our vehicle and probably has implications for accurate distance measurement, but it’s a standard occurrence with GPR. Perhaps that is why GSSI has put a big red marker button on the handle – this is the only GPR we have tried with a dedicated hardware marker button.

    The downside with this simple setup is that the handle is not height adjustable. Smaller people will struggle to push it without suffering from shoulder fatigue.

    In addition to this, the overall setup is heavy and you feel the weight after extended use. The clip holding the handle in place repeatedly worked loose – this didn’t matter at all but because of the movement within the connection between the handle and the frame, you would invariably be pushing more on one side than the other. This meant that although the system has four wheels, it required slightly more conscious effort to maintain straight lines for data collection.

    On long grass ground we found this to be very difficult to push. In practice we would say that large areas off-road are impractical and not what its designed for.

    The radar is controlled via a Panasonic ToughPad which is integrated with a dedicated connection and cable to the antenna. The ToughPad is a dedicated controller rather than a multipurpose computer, but it could probably be used to run other software if it had to. With a dedicated connection the controller just worked and there were no any issues.

    In general the software is good and reliable, although there are occasional bugs. It tends to play up a bit more when the batteries are low. The software was fairly intuitive but some features are buried a few layers deep and took a bit of time to find.

    Because of the detachable tablet screen and lithium batteries, it was very convenient to put the batteries and tablet into the case provided and carry it inside for charging.

    Overall we didn’t love this GPR because of the weight but we could grow to love it, when we had issues with the other GPR’s we tested it was to the GSSI Dual-F that we returned. That fact says it all: this is a very good radar.

    GSSI is an American manufacture but they are supplied by Allied Associates who offer a good UK based service including repairs in their workshop.

    Allied Associates webpage:

    GSSI Geophysical Survey Systems Inc webpage:

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