High-tech survey equipment keeps I-4 Ultimate on right track

Heavy equipment operators make precise adjustments using satelite GPS systems

ORLANDO, Fla. – The success of the I-4 Ultimate relies on teamwork. Teams of workers from many different disciplines, doing their part to keep the project moving ahead, on a choreographed time-line.

Just as important as keeping the I-4 Ultimate on time, is keeping the massive project on its $2.3 billion budget.

A key piece to both of those factors is the high tech survey equipment on the project. The huge graders and dozers you see moving dirt along the 23-mile project are equipped with advanced GPS systems guided by up to 16 satellites.

Project survey manager, Steve Langley, has 37 years of surveying experience. Langley says the technology has advanced to the point that heavy equipment can make grade adjustments down to 1/8 of an inch. "They say you cant teach an old guy new tricks," he says. "But I'm living proof that you can."  

Langley gave News 6 a tour of one of the massive graders working in the Maitland area. The only hint that this isn't your average dirt mover is the tall pole rising above the cab. It's a satellite antennae relaying information miles above Earth. 

Pointing to a tablet size monitor in the cab he scrolls through different views of the dirt and roadway below.

"This technology is unbelievable," he says. "Every second it's taking a measurement."

Langley says the operator is still in control but having a visual reference saves time and produces better results.

"This really doesn't replace the operator or change how he does his job," he says. "It kind of enhances his ability to do his job. It increases his productivity and increases his quality." 

Sensors in the blade, the tool that scrapes the ground and pushes the dirt, can tell what angle and pitch the dirt is being moved, ensuring it matches the engineers design.

Langley says despite all the technological advances, a skilled operator is still in control.

"The joke is one day we'll be sitting in the office and run this machine with a toggle stick," he laughs. "I don't think that's going to happen." 

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