Unlike many companies, OmniSTAR did not get its start in the agriculture industry. It actually got its start serving the oil industry by helping companies properly position oil rigs, before the days of GPS, using shore-based radio stations and surveying techniques.



John Pointon, director of sales and marketing for OmniSTAR, explained how a series of business acquisitions helped create OmniSTAR. "In the 1980s, the company to hire if you wanted to position an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico was John E. Chance and Associates, located in Lafayette, La. This company dominated the Gulf coast oil industry. In the early 90's OmniSTAR was a division of John E. Chance and Associates, which was then purchased by a Dutch-owned company named Fugro.



In the 1980's OmniSTAR's personnel had developed a civilian satellite navigation system for the offshore oil industry and then modified it for differential GPS and land use during the early days of GPS. The primary market in the early days was GIS mapping and surveying. The OmniSTAR signal was first used in agriculture for agricultural aviation between 1994 and 1996 when it was available exclusively through Satloc.



Fugro realized the growing potential for OmniSTAR's use in agricultural applications and so the OmniSTAR division was spun off as a separate company within the Fugro group and began operations as OmniSTAR, Inc. on July 1, 1996.



Now the company employs 30 people and is based in Houston, Texas. OmniSTAR works closely with companies that manufacture GPS equipment including Trimble, TopCon, Novatel and Hemisphere.



OmniSTAR offers the agriculture community data correction services for GPS. Pointon explained that OmniSTAR transmits correction data from geo-stationary satellites on frequencies close to the ones GPS uses. When GPS data comes through the atmosphere, errors can occur because of atmospheric conditions and variations in signal travel time. OmniSTAR's service corrects the errors and improves the accuracy of the final position.



"Our services basically take out the 'wobble effect,' thereby improving accuracy," Pointon said. "Uncorrected GPS can provide accuracy to within 15 to 20 feet. Using single frequency corrections we have provided accuracy of better than +/- 3 feet for over 15 years. Now, with high accuracy dual frequency services, we can get accuracy better than +/- 1.5 inches pass to pass and better than +/-4 inches long term."



OmniSTAR offers one submeter service and two high accuracy services. Pointon said as the agriculture industry adopts autosteering technology for application equipment the demand for positioning information is growing very
quickly.



"The exciting news is that as our engineers continue to work on the service, we expect to provide even better accuracies in the future, possibly 1 to 2 inches of accuracy long term," he said.



In addition, OmniSTAR will be able to tap in to the GLONAAS satellite system put up by Russia and which is currently being tested in Europe.



"OmniSTAR has an 'All in sky' philosophy," Pointon said. "We believe in no limits to our ability to provide the best correction services and customer service. We truly are available any time of the day to help anyone troubleshoot their GPS problems. Anyone can call us up with a problem at 3 a.m. on Christmas morning and get a live person on the phone to help. That's the level of service we provide."