Product Review: The Innovative Javad J-Tip Metal Detector—Part of an Entire RTK System

A 6.794Mb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

Rarely does an utterly unique device appear in today’s established and stable survey world. Sure, we are used to enhancements. Every couple years instruments seem to shoot distance farther and faster. Memory expands. Software offers a few more options. Scanning devices become more robust. But genuine groundbreaking ingenuity is uncommon. Javad, known internationally for its GNSS prowess, has done just that.

Javad is now providing the most sophisticated metal detector available for land surveyors. A mere metal detector? You’re not excited? Okay, try this: It’s total length is five inches. Weight? Three ounces. It sends complete digital information to your Javad rover display. All data is saved for later review. No, I’m not kidding.

Not only does it slip into your back pocket, when needed it screws into the base of the Javad RTK rover pole, replacing the rod tip. All of the magnetic data generated is transmitted instantaneously to the Javad rover itself. The data is saved, which includes graphs and color ground mapping of multiple objects. The user has sophisticated audible and visual feedback. The technology leapfrogs anything available from any other magnetic survey-oriented detector on the market. Advancements? Think logarithmic, exponential. This new metal detector exceeds what you might have imagined possible.

Javad calls its new baby the "J-Tip." Released in early 2017, the J-Tip is an utterly logical invention, and yet utterly innovative. I can’t name the number of times I’ve been hundreds of feet from my vehicle, carrying equipment when nothing has been more important than finding a property corner. Did I bring a metal detector? Of course not; they’re far too awkward when you’re carrying everything else. The J-Tip eliminates all of that decision-making. It’s so small that you never consider not carrying it everywhere.

No other company has released a detector even vaguely comparable. In the survey field, metal detectors have all followed the same basic design paradigm: a long pole attached to a compact upper box consisting of circuit boards and wires that are coupled to a speaker. Turn it on, swing it around and hope for a high screech that may indicate that ancient 2" pipe. None of your results get saved. Visual differentiation between found objects is crude, if available at all. Your boss (or client) has to take your word that you made a thorough sweep. You have to hope you found the correct corner. The J-Tip eliminates guessing. The traditional metal detectors we all own, on a scale of 1-10, are 4s. The J-Tip is an 8-9. It’s that good.

Let’s admit that the basic detector design has been around for more than four decades without appreciable change. Sure, it works. Sure, we can’t do without them. But it has been a device all too susceptible to an ambush. Shall we say it is oh-so-1970s?

Javad has emerged on the scene as the unexpected change agent, the innovator. Am I enthusiastic? Yes, and for good reason. (This is a good moment for a disclaimer: I work as an objective reviewer for American Surveyor, and am receiving no enumeration from Javad for this review. My opinions are my own.)

I have recently had access to a full Javad GNSS RTK unit, which included a base (a Triumph-2), a license-free frequency hopping spread spectrum radio (the Javad HPT901BT), and the heart of the Javad system, the Triumph-LS. The loaner system included the new J-Tip and an ingenious monopod (a Benro modified by Javad) that dethrones the usual rigid RTK rod. Everything arrived to my office professionally packaged. Setup was via remote access and was amazingly easy.

For those not familiar with the Javad RTK system, Javad does not have the usual clip-on data collector-rod-wires-antenna configuration. Instead, Javad chose to build the RTK essentials into a small rectangular box (4 ½ x 6 ¼ inches) that sits on top of the monopod at head level. Consequently, there is no data collector. And the antenna and typical data collector are merged into a single GNSS device.

This pioneering approach offers better visuals (it has a touch screen at eye level that is sharp and bright under all conditions), easier carrying and a more compact overall package. No wires stick out to get caught in brush. J-Tip to receiver communication is via Bluetooth. When not in use the monopod collapses to 24-inches (my existing high end, carbon rover rod is 72-inches, and the wire connecting the collector to the antenna has a nasty habit of getting caught in brush).

The whole Javad system is a ground-up redesign of how to do RTK surveying, and I quickly fell in love. Nothing imitative here. I am tempted to go on about the benefits of the overall Javad system but would duplicate an earlier, comprehensive review by Shawn Billings, PS, that appeared in the January 2015 issue of American Surveyor. That review was thorough and I wholeheartedly recommend that anyone not familiar with the Javad read it in conjunction with this current J-Tip review. Shawn Billings, by the way, now consults with Javad and was my technical contact as I became familiar with the system. Enough background. Let’s look at J-Tip details.

J-Tip Features
At the heart of the J-Tip are two magnetic sensors which send 100 Hz magnetic values to the TRIUMPH-LS via Bluetooth (that’s 100 times per second). There is also a three-dimensional magnetic sensor inside the TRIUMPH-LS; the sensors of the J-Tip and Triumph cross-check each other in real time. In response to the J-Tip signals, the TRIUMPH-LS visually plots the 2D and 3D magnetic characteristics of objects it detects on screen, as well as showing the shape and the center of the objects under the ground.

Multiple objects, if found, appear together on screen so that the surveyor can uncover objects based on the strongest signals. If you excavate two objects, and then a week later wonder if there were three–the proverbial pincushion of rebar and pipes–you can pull up the saved data and check.

Musical tones the user can select are automatically assigned to magnetic values according to the weights assigned in the TRIUMPH’s Dynamic Beep Screen and based on minimum and maximum "mag" values. There’s a functional dance between the visual data on screen and the tones generated by the magnetic values that, put simply, work. It’s all so obvious and yet brilliant. I kept asking myself, "Why hasn’t someone done this sooner?"

What else? When not "paired" to the rover, the Bluetooth LED of the J-Tip blinks red. When paired it is solid red. When both paired and connected, it is blue. The power LED shows charge levels with green, yellow, and red colors. Hold the "On/Off" button for three seconds to turn the J-Tip off. Click it 3 times to decouple it from the TRIUMPH-LS. The J-Tip turns itself off to conserve power if not used for a period of time. It charges quickly via a USB connection to any computer.

Other notable features? The J-Tip and TRIUMPH-LS working together yield a 2D and 3D view of the field condition. When you have RTK to have uploaded a general boundary into the TRIUMPH-LS, it will guide you to the probable location. Once an object is detected you can actually see the shape of it. What I’d have given in the past for that feature before I broke out a shovel. Forget digging up nails and old barbed wire. This thing makes you smart.

The J-Tip, in what Javad calls Time View, shows you positive and negative "mag" values for the prior 100 seconds and the minimum and the maximum values since Start/Reset. You can see the search history and make decisions on the shape and size of the object found. The J-Tip shows the instantaneous magnetic vector in horizontal and vertical directions. After using detectors for decades myself, I admit that this new tool feels like some magical wand whipped out to impress me by a crew member on Star Trek.

I should note that the build quality of the entire Javad system is admirable. Even better everything is made in California. The J-Tip is no exception. Although the tech data accompanying the J-Tip does not discuss waterproofing, it is robust enough to be at least water resistant.

Downsides? Given that is it light, fast and programmed to think like Sherlock Holmes, J-Tip downsides are few. One distinct limitation though is that it is designed to work exclusively within the Javad GNSS system. It couples solely with the TRIUMPH-LS, not with any other RTK systems. What a shame.

Javad is patenting the J-Tip. But the concept is a must-have once any land surveyor has been exposed to its advantages. Consequently, I suspect other manufacturers will have to offer something similar. To ignore this innovation would leave a gap in every other supplier’s solar system. Not to mention leaving every boundary surveyor outside the Javad world jealous. Yet no other company has announced a similar tool. Ah, the established survey world.

As I noted at the beginning of this review, this invention is totally logical, and yet an utter surprise. Now that it is here, I marvel that something like it didn’t appear decades ago. For the everyday working boundary surveyor, this very cool innovation not only saves lugging around the usual awkward detector, it saves time and provides far more data than we have ever had. The bar for great magnetic detectors has been raised unexpectedly.

Patrick C. Garner is a Professional Land Surveyor in Massachusetts who has been in private practice for over 35 years. A Principal of Patrick C. Garner Company Inc., he frequently conducts technical seminars, does peer reviews for cities and towns, and works as an expert witness in Massachusetts’ courts. He also provides 15 active on-line continuing education courses through RedVector, many of which focus on legal issues in land surveying.

A 6.794Mb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE