Magellan MobileMapper 6 GPS – Part 1

SED recently bought a Magellan MobileMapper 6 handheld.  It collects data with 2-5m real time accuracy, which can be improved to 1-2m with post-processing. The other day I tested it in the Peak District, under pretty ideal conditions, and with post-processing I got accuracy well below 1m.  I am very impressed by the GPS positioning accuracy and also by the ease of use of the device, I think it is ideal for the occasional professional user!

The MobileMapper 6  can be borrowed by staff and students. Here are some basic instructions on how to use it:

Part1: Before you go into the fieldMagellan MobileMapper 6

Get the Magellan MobileMapper 6

Contact geography lab staff to borrow the Magellan. There is quite some demand, so plan well ahead.

Switch on and off

Switch the unit on by pressing the power key on the top right. After a few seconds it displays the Start Screen.

To switch the unit off, hold the power key until the display clears.  When you switch it off your data will be preserved.


Check the battery status on the top right of the screen. A brindled battery symbol mm6_2 indicates full batteries; a hollow symbol indicates empty batteries. Tap the symbol with the stylus for a detailed battery status.

Always take spare batteries. The unit operates on two AA batteries. Full batteries should last for about a day of continuous operation. Use rechargeable batteries if possible, these do not last as long as disposable ones but are less harmful to the environment.  Changing batteries does not delete your data.

To change batteries:

  1. Switch the unit off.
  2. On the back of the unit, lift the D-ring, turn it 1/4 turn counter clockwise, and then pull the battery cover away.
  3. Change the batteries, observing proper polarity.
  4. Reinstall the battery cover.
  5. Recycle empty batteries.

Prepare your data

With the MobileMapper you can not only determine your location, but you also can create and edit GIS data in the field.

  1. You probably already have some GIS data, like OS Mastermap data for a basemap. We assume this data is in a designated folder, say C:\dissertation\GIS.
  2. You probably also have one or more datasets that you want to update in the field, e.g. sample site locations.  If you don’t have such a dataset yet, create a Shapefile in ArcCatalog with all required attributes, e.g. samplesites.shp.
  3. Identify all datasets that you need to take into the field, e.g.  your sample sites dataset, aerial photography, OS base maps, etc.
  4. All your data has to have the same spatial reference system, e.g. British National Grid. Use ArcCatalog to check. If the spatial reference systems vary, project all data into a common system.
  5. All vector data has to be in Shapefile format, rasters in GeoTIFF format. If it is is different formats, convert your vector data to Shapefile and rasters to GeoTIFF.

Load data onto the Magellan

  • If your PC/Laptop has an SD Card reader, just take the SD card out of the Magellan and put it into your PC. Then create a folder with your name on the card, e.g. karl, and copy your data from C:\dissertation\GIS into the folder karl. Finally, put the card back into the GPS.
  • If your PC/Laptop does not have an SD Card reader:
    1. On Windows XP install Microsoft Active Sync,  on Vista install Windows Mobile Device Center . The following steps assume XP.
    2. Connect the Magellan to your PC with the USB cable and switch it on.
    3. In the Active Sync Window click Explore. In the explorer window open My Windows Based Mobile Device > Storage Card
    4. Create a folder with your name, e.g. karl.
    5. Copy your Shapefiles and GeoTIFFs into the folder karl.
    6. Switch the Magellan off.

Please only transfer your data, but do not install or uninstall any software applications on the MobileMapper!

Create a map for your fieldwork

  1. You should have a GPS signal for the following, so take the MobileMapper outside. When it gets a sufficient GPS signal it displays your location as a small arrow.
  2. Tap Start > Mobile Mapping. A blank map canvas appears.
  3. Tap Menu > New to create a new map. Set:
    1. Name: <YourName><date>, e.g. karl260609 (Tap the keyboard icon at the bottom of the screen to show and hide the keyboard.)
    2. Location: Storage Card
    3. Folder: <YourName>, e.g. karl
    4. Tap Save. This places the map into your folder on the storage card.
  4. In the next screen add map layers:
    1. You already copied your existing data onto the storage card, so tap Select an existing layer.
      1. Select Folder: <YourName>, e.g. karl
      2. Select the file type (Shape or GeoTIFF)
      3. Select the layer to add from the list.
      4. Specify a display symbol for the layer. Depending on the type of layer you have various options:  for point layers you can set a symbol, for line layers a color and width, and for polygon layers you can set a color and fill pattern.  Tap OK.
      5. Add layers until your map is ready. Note that although you loaded layers containing data, the MobileMapper may not display them, this is because you either don’t have a GPS signal, or in the case of raster layers, because the MobileMapper displays rasters only at an adequate zoom level.

Navigate the map

  • Pan the map by taping into the canvas and pulling it in the desired direction
  • Tap Menu > Zoom In and Zoom Out
  • Tap Menu > Layers and set layers visible/hidden
  • Tap Menu > Go To to zoom to a specific item, based on it’s attribute values
  • Tap Menu > GPS > Status
  • Tap Menu > Exit to exit the Mobile Mapping software. Note that your map is saved automatically. The next time you start the mapping software it will automatically load the latest map.

Check device settings

Check the following settings and potentially adapt them to your requirements:

  • On the MobileMapper tap Start > Mobile Mapping
  • In the Mobile Mapping software, tap Menu > Options. You get various tabs:
    • In the Logging tab:
      • For logging points, set the time during which the receiver will average the GPS signal. The longer this time the more accurate the reading, but you must not move the device while a point feature is being logged. Usually 10 seconds is reasonable.
      • For line and area logging: set how often you want a vertex of the line to be taken, based on time (every 5 seconds) or distance (every 5m), or manually.
    • In the DGPS tab: make sure SBAS is activated.
    • In the Raw Data tab: if you are going to post-process your data back in the office to increase accuracy, make sure raw data recording is activated and set the location to Memory Card.

When you are finished, exit the mapping software (Menu > Exit).

That’s it!

You should switch the device off when it is not in use. If you leave it on, the screen goes dark after a few minutes, but it continues consuming battery power.

If you need more detailed guidance on the device see Magellan’s Getting Started Guide, for details on using the mapping software see the Mobile Mapping Software Guide.

In part 2 we will guide you through using the Mobile Mapper in the field. Continue to part 2


13 thoughts on “Magellan MobileMapper 6 GPS – Part 1

  1. Hi,
    Thank you for your feedbacks and comments regarding our MobileMapper 6 GPS receiver and pleased to hear it suit you well.
    Should you need any further information or assistance, don’t hesitate to contact us or our UK dealers.

    Best regards,
    Emmanuel Blanchard
    Regional Sales Manager-

    1. I have not tried live tracking, so cannot say.
      But I assume that depends pretty much on the software you are using on the Laptop.

    1. I don’t think a SD card is required to operate the device, but it increases storage capacity and certainly makes data transfer much easier. Considering that you can buy an SD card for a few quid I definitely recommend it.

  2. I’m having problems with inputing shape files into ArkGis from Mobile mapper 6. I have followed the guide lines in part 1 to 3 but when importing the shape file it is displayed but not in the area of the map. You have to zoom out and then you will come across the shape and it tends to be to the right. Both the map and shape file I have set to national grid. Do you have any ideas please.

    1. Hello Peter, a spatial offset between your reference data and GPS recordings is usually due to one of the two having an incorrect coordinate system assigned. It is difficult to diagnose this remotely, but: (1) how much offset do you have in meters? (2) Where did you use the GPS and what is the official coordinate system in that country/region? (3) What base map do you use and how did you set the coordinate system of the base map? (4) How did you set the coordinate system of the shapefile?

      1. Hello Karl, thank you for your reply. Here are the answers to your questions:
        1: The measuring tool is telling me there is a distance of 49m from the shape file to the point of the real location of the shape file, but between the two shapefile groups I created there was a distances of over 300m. The width of the map was only 19m. 2. I’m in the South of England and am using British National Grid. 3:My base map is OS 1 10000 colour raster tiff using which I have made pyramids and set it to British National Grid in projection coordinates and this operation was carried out in Arkcatalog. However when adding this map base to ArkMap a message was displayed. “The following data sources you added are missing spatial references information. This data can be drawn but not projected.” I don’t understand why this is as its clearly telling me that its British National Grid. I loaded this map up so I could work out the distances in question 1. 4: The shape file I have carried out setting the coordinates in two ways. The first way was creating two shapefiles on mobile mapper 6 with world coordinates and British National grid. Using Arkcatalog I also created two shape files with the same coordinates and imported onto the mobile mapper 6. When I imported them into ArkMap I did not change them so I could see if there was much difference in their placements: all with different coordinate systems they all displayed the shape file but only in their coordinate groups.

        I believe now it’s to do with maybe my map choice and my lack of understanding of ArkGis. Do you have any thoughts?

  3. Hi Karl,
    I am trying to use Mobile Mapper 6 in Dhaka, Bangladesh but in the regional setting there is no option for Bangladesh. What can I do in that case? The mapper is also not connecting with the satellite and not tracing the position. Can you please help me in this regards. Thnx.

    1. Hi Tazrina, my MobileMapper disappeared a while ago, so I cannot check the coordinate system settings. I recommend you find out the parameters for the Bangladesh coordinate system (datum, projection, origin, units) and then on the Mobile Mapper check if there is some way to not use the built-in coordinate systems, but to set it manually to the Bangladesh parameters.
      The issue with the mapper not getting a satellite signal, again I can not diagnose it remotely, but I suggest you contact teh supplier of the device about it.

      1. Thank you so much Karl for your kind reply. For getting the satellite signal should I do something else or it is detected by the Mapper automatically? And for getting the signal is it necessary to fix the country setting first or it could be connected without country setting? I am using the device for the first time, that’s why don’t know much about this.


      2. The satellite signal does not depend on the country setting, so it should always be detected automatically even without country settings. If you have no satellite signal, go outdoors with a clear view to the sky, tap Menu > GPS > Initialize, enter your approximate location (latitude 23N, longitude 90E) and wait a few minutes. If it still does not get a signal, tap Menu > GPS > Reset.

        The country settings: You can set a custom coordinate system when creating a layer. In the country list select USER, then enter the coordinate system parameters manually. Another option is do do your GP survey in a predefined system, say DD/WGS84 or UTM, and then convert to the Bangladesh coordinate system in GIS software.

        There is a ‘Getting Started Guide’ on the CD that comes with the MobileMapper, this should have all the info you need.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s