Using Collector for ArcGIS to Field Map Assets Fast and Accurately

The Collector for ArcGIS smartphone app for mapping assets in the field has become increasingly more streamlined and powerful since its inception. Once you create an ArcGIS Online map and a feature template, everything else is handled on your smartphone!

Starting with version 10.4, released in October 2016, the Collector for ArcGIS app can be used with high-accuracy GNSS receivers like the Trimble R2, which is compact, collects data quickly, provides sub-foot accuracy, and pairs seamlessly with both Collector for ArcGIS and Trimble’s GNSS Status app via Bluetooth. Once the R2 is paired with the GNSS Status app, Collector for ArcGIS configures the R2, provides satellite/GNSS information, and links to a virtual reference system (VRS). This combination of technologies can be deployed anywhere there is a cellular service connection.

If a project area has good 4G cellular broadband signal reception, using Collector for ArcGIS to collect field GPS data is faster and more efficient than using traditional data loggers. This approach eliminates the need to:

  • pre-configure data collection forms and menus for GPS data loggers.
  • perform differential correction post-processing of GPS coordinates to improve accuracy because the app applies real-time differential corrections.
  • convert GPS coordinates into GIS data because the data are captured directly as GIS features.

Both Collector for ArcGIS and Trimble’s GNSS Status app are free on Android, iOS, and Microsoft Windows.

Collector for ArcGIS is a game-changer for locating sewer manholes

EBA used these apps and the Trimble R2 receiver to collect GPS locations for sewer manholes in two new developments and to verify other manhole locations across Lower Allen Township, Pennsylvania. The Township Authority’s office of asset management uses this GIS data to provide an accurate representation of the entire system, which is crucial for performing maintenance, system checks, inspections, and other management tasks.

Collecting the data with Collector for ArcGIS paired with a Trimble R2 unit proved to be the most cost-effective method for the Township. Both the receiver and apps are incredibly easy to configure for any mobile data collection process.

The ArcGIS Online map is stored within the organization and shared easily with any linked account holder. Once the feature service (where the sewer manhole data points are stored) is created, users need only sign into the Collector for ArcGIS app on their smartphones to open the map. After a few prompts, the map and layer created online are fully functional and ready to use in the app.

The data collected using the Collector for ArcGIS app is already in the correct file format for use in any GIS app, program, or map. It can be downloaded, linked, or added to any ArcGIS Online map, all while being safely stored virtually within the ArcGIS Online platform.

The VRS, KeyNetGPS, uses a series of high-accuracy GNSS reference stations (base stations) to provide real-time, error-corrected coordinates for each location (point) collected. Without the VRS, we would have to deploy base stations in the field and connect them to our receiver and/or use post-processing software to correct errors. With the GNSS Status app, VRS, and Trimble R2 unit, Collector for ArcGIS easily achieved an accuracy of +/- 3 inches from the GPS location collected, while providing real-time data updates to the ArcGIS Online map and feature service.

Our goal was to provide our client with accurate GPS data for their GIS that could be collected quickly and required no back-end work or post-processing. Not only was the client satisfied with the data we collected, but the process we implemented allowed us to complete the project ahead of schedule and under budget.

While the technology discussed here is not new, its potential applications are increasing rapidly. It creates exciting opportunities to leverage the power of GIS data to find solutions to any challenges our clients have, present and future.

David Thaler is a GIS analyst for EBA Engineering, Inc. He can be reached at 717.510.9640 or


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David Thaler