back to article Swede packs off GPS to make world's biggest sketch

Swedish artist Erik Nordenankar claims to have created the world's biggest "drawing", having dispatched a GPS unit on a 110,664 km odyssey to create a global self portrait: The world's biggest drawing superimposed on map Nordenankar explains: "On the 17th of March 2008, I sent away a briefcase containing a GPS device with …


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  1. Peter D'Hoye
    Thumb Down

    What a load of ....

    1. packed in a suitcase like that, there will be no gps signal

    2. while traveling and in the dhl buildings, there will be no gps signal

    3. strange loops over the ocean? Don't buy it

    conclusion: 100% fake!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lets just pretend we did it...

    ... it will be easier given the batteries don't last 55 days and anyway it will be in a metal plane hold which will screen the signal..... and it is just UTube, so only a few people will see it... and the budget for this is small....

    Yeh, lets just pretend.

  3. Steven Raith
    Thumb Down


    "The best advertising is developed with society. using a GPs and the express shipping company DhL, i drew a self-portrait on our planet. i used the technological aids of our time to make the world’s biggest drawing, along with advertising adapted to the contemporary era. a campaign the recipient wants to see and which is interesting enough for people to want to share it with their friends."

    I for one condemn the use of general practioners from the medical field to be utilised to help make pointless artistic expressions when they could be thinking of the children etc.

    I also don't believe that anyone who can't capitalise the terms and companies they are using to publicise themselves could come up with the intellectual nouse to come up with such a grandiose plan.

    Nor should they be allowed publicity.

    Or air for that matter.

    Steven R

    [feeling a bit ill and grumpy today]

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Let's have....

    ...the raw NMEA logs from that unit please....

    I can check these in GPSGate and see if you're lying......

    Mine's the one with the polygraph in the pocket and voice stress analyser on the phone.

  5. Glenn Gilbert

    Amazing GPS

    What an amazing piece of kit that GPS is. Goodness knows how big the battery was, but it's a tad larger than the normal batteries that last for 16 hours.

    And the aerial must be pretty damn special to look through the metal body of an airplane. Most GPS' I've used struggle to look through a bit of plastic of a roof.

    Then there's the instructions to follow a 6000 km looping course around Europe to places where there's no places, let alone destinations for landing a cargo plane.

    Oh, and the GPS must have had an amazing memory; normally the tracking log fills up after a few days.

    Amazing really.

  6. peter

    It's a bomb

    How did they get this through customs, it looks like a movie prop bomb.

    They should have gone the eco way and attatched a gps with solar panels to that giant floating island formed out of plastic and other waste that moves around the ocean.

    Then said DHL are using biofuel or providing recycled packaging to customers. Even though biofuel doesn't make sense yet.

  7. Steven Jones

    Obvious Fake

    Nothing more to say...

  8. Andrew Rennard

    I beat this.

    I have gone one better, and have dispatched a Galactic Positioning Device into a UFO flown by friendly Altarians, and they are going to draw a self portrait of my ass over the Milky Way.

    (I have just as much basis in reality as this BS story too).

  9. Richard


    On the website it says he developed a device with a bigger tracking log and more battery... It still does seem very unlikely though!

  10. alyn

    Big batteries

    The reason the briefcase was so big is that it must have contained a lead-acid car battery in there.And it looks like an aluminium briefcase. An effective Faraday cage if ever I saw one.

    P.S. GPS gets confused on Eurostar trains as well. It doesn't expect cars to be driving at 186 mph

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Map Projections

    I'm certain that there's something in the back of my mind somewhere about different map projections not being accurate (Mercator, Miller, etc) so how on earth (no pun intended) was he able to plot the co-ordinates required to 'draw' this image? He and DHL are obviously very clever *he says, with his tongue in his cheek*. I'm declining to definately decide if I think this is fake or not, though I'm leaning toward a blend of a real GPS track and artistic license.

    Of course, it's been done before;

    'I'll get my coat' because I have a magical GPS in the poachers pocket which sees through all current building and plane making materials, and some that haven't been invented yet.

  12. James L


    For those doubting about the technology, surely it's not that difficult? Battery lifetime: given the resolution required surely it only needs to turn itself on and get a fix every 10 minutes or so. And if you're only logging that often I'm sure a 64+GB SSD would have plenty of room. Finally the briefcase could have a whole load of interleaved aerials and a socket on the outside to attach a larger one...or the instructions to the DHL drivers could have been to always carry it on the front seat. Works for my for being inside buildings, it only needs to catch some signal going in and going out and then assume it's still at the last known position till it gets another fix or some algorithm like that.

    This of course assumes he used heavily customised kit and not an off-the-shelf product. I probably made several wrong assumptions above but it doesn't seem like it should be impossible. I'm pretty sure this bloke could do it pretty easily

    Still at the end of the day the only way he could possibly have gotten those lovely patterns over the ocean is chartering his own planes at ridiculous cost.

  13. Ceilidhman
    Black Helicopters

    I can do it too!

    with an Etch-a Sketch in about 5 mins.

    Mine's the grounded one.

  14. Neil

    Not unfeasible

    Given that the firm I work for has sold GPS trackers that operate for months from batteries for asset location purposes, if it's in a suitcase full of batteries and with an external aerial feed (i.e. on the roof of the truck, or a window of a plane) then it's possible. Given the scales involved even if the signal is weak and the position is out by a couple of kilometers it'd still work.

    That said, I prefer the conspiracy theories ;-)

  15. P.Nutt

    Normal Parcel Route

    If you send anything by DHL, They seem to have a habit of sending most of my stuff this route. I am actually surprised to got there so quickly without getting crushed/lost/stolen or delivered to the wrong address!

  16. Remy Redert


    Did you see the size of those things in that suitcase? It's certainly no stock battery.

  17. alyn

    Re:I beat this

    I've already seen Uranus, or was it the full moon

  18. Simon Robinson
    Black Helicopters

    Looking at the istructions...

    Looks like the route DHL normally take to deliver stuff here...

    The journey from just south of Iceland to just off the African coast looks a bit convoluted, I hope they weren't diverting other important packages for a publicity stunt.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    seems to jump in and out the water a lot

    I hear the port authority in Luanda is a bitch

  20. ImaGnuber

    The Real Story

    The Reg is a Fake! We, and all of the stories here, are figments of the neurotic imagination of some obsessive nerd living in the attic of the family home.

    I mean, really, look at the photos of the 'anniversary'. The shadows are all wrong and real humans couldn't possibly look like that and still be viable life forms.

    We're all made up! Get over it!

    I for one welcome our insane overlord and give thanks that she (yes 'she' so it's really our Overlady) created someone as beautiful and intelligent as me and allows me to imagine her alone and in 'all her glory' (winkwinkwinkwinkwink!).

    I won't even get into the strange but wonderful things she makes me do (winkwinkwinkwinkwinkwinkwinkwinkwinkwinkwinkwinkwinkwinkwink!).

  21. Seanie Ryan
    IT Angle

    wrong claim

    it might be the longest journey for a GPS unit, but the briefcase didnt "draw" anything as it went on its merry way.

    The drawing was still only on the piece of paper he plotted it on.

  22. Neil Paterson

    Re: Those instructions...

    Doesn't prove a thing, but just happened to look at the metainfo of his instructions at .

    Created on 6/5/08, six weeks or so AFTER he sent the thing off with DHL...

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Metal case...

    Looked pretty plastic to me, whiners.

    And my GPS works from directly inside my car.

    Who says it needs to be working on the actual flight, just on and off. You can see the image is made up of direct lines.

    Loops made by visiting small islands?

    Yes, it does seem far fetched, and its not "documented" (proven) that well really.

    NMEA logs could be faked also.

  24. Karim Bourouba

    who cares?

    who seriously cares if this is a fake or not?

    Its hardly newsworthy, so what if he made it up? The article says its for advertising...

  25. Khyle Westmoreland
    Paris Hilton


    > P.S. GPS gets confused on Eurostar trains as well. It doesn't expect cars to be driving at 186 mph

    You're obviously getting GPS (Global Positioning System) confused with satellite navigation (AKA sat-nav; the practice of deriving your location from GPS and then plotting a course to take).

    My GPS was perfectly happy on Eurostar - shame we only ever went at 185mph!

    Paris because I'd like to ride her at 186mph too!

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Stock batteries

    "Did you see the size of those things in that suitcase? It's certainly no stock battery."

    Say they're 50amp-hour batteries (about half of a 90amphour leisure battery), that GPS has to draw no more than 38mA. It's not impossible, just not very likely.

    And the route, again, not impossible but hightly unlikely, the flight path would not get permission, they've listed a bunch of coordinates, but that doesn't explain the loops, since planes follow flight paths they can't just decide to fly to go flying around without clearance for their flight plan.

    It seems unlikely they went looping in Iraq for example:

    N 34.9850° E 42.7697° & KIRKUK

    Their insurers would not give them permission, a quick search shows their flights into Bagdad occasionally get shot at.

    Then there's the signal problem, it isn't a case of weak signal = inaccurate. You just can't get a lock if you can't get multiple signals that can be distinguished from noise.

    But that's all irrelevant. If you wanted to make that with a GPS device, stick it in the test rig at my old office (I worked on these) and simulate the path on a test rig.

    What I reckon they did is hand the coordinates of DHL depots to the advertising agency and they drew a picture through those coordinates and a few others and invented a story to go with it. Make a few photo shoots, try to make a viral.

  27. Steve Evans
    Thumb Down


    Doubtful... I've tried turning on my GPS on a plane before, cos budget flights never have the fun "What the toilet will currently flush on" tracking displayed for us cattle... I've never managed to get a satellite lock, and I've tried with 2 different units.

    Then of course there's the matter of batteries, as has been mentioned a few times, and of course the odds on a UPS package correctly making that many trips without an extended stay in Germany via Heathrow terminal 5... They're so low they rival our Eurovision odds!

    So add one vote to the "it's a 5 minute job with paint"

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Copycat ...

    It's just a variation of my brother's Project Richard (1997) where he developed the technique over the Indian Ocean. See proof;

  29. Law
    Paris Hilton

    RE: The Real Story

    "I for one welcome our insane overlord and give thanks that she (yes 'she' so it's really our Overlady) created someone as beautiful and intelligent as me and allows me to imagine her alone and in 'all her glory' (winkwinkwinkwinkwink!)."

    You forgot the Overlady's icon foolish man.

    Paris - because to look upon the face of The Goddess, is to know madness itself.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Judging by the 2nd caption on the video...

    ...he should have spent more time and money learning how to use an apostrophe, rather than wasting everyone's time with with this hoax.

  31. Nexox Enigma

    While it seems fake...

    You all are going off of your experiences with little handheld GPS devices. To get a proper signal you need a powered antenna which is mostly larger than your entire handheld. I have seen some impressive GPS kit that worked in a basement of a large reinforced concrete building, thanks to multiple large high-sensitivity antennas. I've also spec'd some nice embedded GPS chips that will run on very little power, mostly thanks to the fact that GPS signals only update once a second, so they can sleep something like 99.9% of the time. As others have mentioned, 10 minute intervals would be plenty for the scale involved, and the equipment could drop to a low power (think .002 Watts) mode for a serious amount of time. And who says that it never got charged for the whole trip?

    Still it does look like it's rather unlikely that they did much flying over the middle east and certain bits of Africa.

    Plus, doesn't it seem like a colossal waste of time? Then again, in marketing terms, some GPS hardware and 55,000 miles or whatever of flight time is probably rather cheap. That's like 1/7th of a second of Super Bowl advert time.

  32. Anonymous Coward

    Just a thought...

    ..Has no-one else (including the author) noticed the big red "This is fictional work. DHL did not transport the GPS at any time" notice at the bottom of the website..?

  33. James L

    It's Not Real say DHL

    Oh well.

    "Say they're 50amp-hour batteries (about half of a 90amphour leisure battery), that GPS has to draw no more than 38mA. It's not impossible, just not very likely."

    As stated by myself and others, you get around this problem by sleeping the vast majority of the time. Unless you already calc'ed that in...

  34. Jon H

    The website says it's fictional

    At the bottom of that website is the line...

    "This is fictional work. DHL did not transport the GPS at any time "

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