September 26th, 2011
I got an email about the NiTek Q compass accuracy. Believe me, I wanted the most accurate compass we could get because I explore caves when the opportunity presents itself. The exploration isn’t done until the directional survey and distance measurement is done. With all the compass technology out there today there are a few misconceptions of compass accuracy. The new age compasses on phones are not all true compasses, but rather GPS technology with compass graphics interface so the degree of accuracy is different from that of an electronic compass chip.
The accuracy of the compass chip in the NiTek Q is +/- 3 degrees and tilt compensation is minimal so keep it level like a mechanical compass. I have used a Casio watch compass for survey and compared it to my mechanical compass survey and found the variations to be acceptable. I was getting +/- 3 degrees on the resurvey of passage or from one surveyor to another, part of that is most mechanical compasses used for underwater, (Silva) are in 2 degree increments so there in itself lies a degree of error. The survey specialists still prefer a mechanical compass when they are looking at short distance loop closure on a project, but for expedition style survey to capture trend and direction the electronic compass can do the job.
There are only a few electronic compass chips on the market so beware of advertisements of a greater degree of accuracy on a device unless you are paying $450 for a digital compass only, then make sure the accuracy fits the claim. They sound good until I read the fine print on the accuracy.