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Understanding Global Positioning System (GPS)

  • Ashesh Anand
  • Mar 19, 2022
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The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a satellite constellation that provides extremely precise positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) measurements throughout the world. Precision agriculture, driverless vehicles, maritime or aerial surveying, and defense applications have all benefited from GPS, which was one of the first satellite positioning systems.

 

The Global Positioning System, or GPS, is a satellite navigation system that offers location, velocity, and time synchronization. GPS may be found almost anywhere. GPS systems can be found in your automobile, smartphone, and watch. 

 

GPS can assist you in getting from point A to point B. What exactly is GPS? Learn more about how it operates, its history, and future developments by reading this blog.


 

How does GPS Work?

 

In a precise orbit, GPS satellites circle the Earth twice a day. Each satellite transmits a unique signal and orbital parameters, which GPS systems can decode and calculate the satellite's precise location. This information, together with trilateration, is used by GPS receivers to calculate a user's actual location. 

 

The GPS receiver calculates the distance between each satellite by the time it takes to receive a broadcast signal. The receiver can calculate a user's position and show it electronically using distance measurements from a couple additional satellites, allowing you to measure your running route, map a golf course, find your way home, or embark on an adventure anywhere. 

 

NAVSTAR satellites are the name given to GPS satellites. Of course, no GPS introduction would be complete without learning about the satellites themselves! In February of 1978, the first GPS satellite was launched.

 

Also Read | 3D Geolocation and Mapping: An Overview

 

Watch this: NGA Explains: What is GPS? (Episode 2)



What are GPS (global positioning system) satellite signals?

 

Satellites communicate their orbital position and exact time at that location on radio waves all the time. This signal, together with at least three additional satellite signals, is received by antennas and processed in a GPS receiver to determine a user's location.

 

L1 (1575.42MHz), L2 (1227.60MHz), and L5 (1176.45MHz) are among the frequencies used by GPS satellites. The C/A code, which can be used for commercial reasons, is a signal that consists of a recognition code for each satellite as well as information known as a navigation message that is delivered at the same time. 

 

The ephemeris is the data of each satellite's orbit, while the almanac is the data of all satellites' orbits. At a rate of 50 bits per second, the navigation messages are transmitted. The GPS receiver estimates the distance between satellites and the receiver using this data to generate position data.

 

Also Read | How do Google Maps work?

 

 

What are the three components of a GPS system?

 

The GPS system is made up of three parts, known as segments, that operate together to produce location data.

 

The three parts of GPS are as follows:

 

  1. Space (Satellites) – Satellites that orbit the Earth and send signals to users based on their geographic location and time of day.

 

  1. Ground control – The Control Segment consists of Earth-based monitor stations, master control stations, and a ground antenna. Tracking and operating satellites in space, as well as monitoring signals, are all part of the control tasks. 

 

Monitoring stations can be found on nearly every continent, including North and South America, Africa, Europe, Asia, and Australia.

 

  1. User Equipment – User equipment, which includes GPS receivers and transmitters such as watches, cellphones, and telematic devices.

 

Also Read | AI in Space Exploration


 

How Precise is GPS?

 

The amount of satellites available, the ionosphere, the metropolitan environment, and other factors all affect GPS device accuracy. The following are some of the issues that can make GPS accuracy difficult:

 

  1. Physical Obstructions

 

Large masses such as mountains, buildings, trees, and other natural obstacles might skew arrival time calculations.

 

  1. Atmospheric effects

 

GPS devices can be affected by ionospheric delays, severe storm cover, and solar storms.

 

  1. Ephemeris

 

A satellite's orbital model may be erroneous or out-of-date, though this is becoming less common.

 

  1. Numerical Errors

 

This could be a factor if the device hardware isn't built to specs.

 

  1. Artificial Interference

 

Artificial devices such as GPS jamming devices or spoofs are also one of the obstructions that interfere in the accuracy of GPS. In open locations with no nearby tall buildings that can block signals, accuracy tends to be higher. 

 

An urban canyon is the term for this effect. When a device is surrounded by tall buildings, such as in downtown Manhattan or Toronto, the satellite signal is first obstructed, then reflected off the structure and read by the device. This can lead to errors in satellite distance calculations.

 

Also Read | Self Driving Car Companies


 

Applications of GPS

 

GPS provides applications that rely on satellite technology for precise positioning, navigation, and timing measurements all over the world. The need for a precise position, reliable and safe navigation, tracking and monitoring an object's movement, surveying and mapping of an area, or timing within a billionth of a second drives the use of GPS in these applications.

 

The following are some examples of GPS use cases:

 

  1. Construction, mining, and off-road trucking

 

GPS enables enterprises to maximize the return on their investments by locating equipment, assessing and optimizing asset allocation.

 

  1. Transportation

 

Telematics technologies are used by logistics organizations to improve driver productivity and safety. Route optimization, fuel efficiency, driver safety, and compliance can all be aided by a truck tracker.

 

  1. Entertainment

 

Games and hobbies such as Pokémon Go and Geocaching can use GPS.


 

  1. Emergency Response 

 

First responders utilize GPS for mapping, weather tracking, and keeping track of emergency workers during an emergency or natural catastrophe. The eCall regulation in the EU and Russia uses GLONASS (a GPS alternative) and telematics to convey data to emergency services in the event of a vehicle crash, shortening response time.


 

  1. Health and Fitness

 

Wearable technologies and smartwatches can track fitness activity (such as running   distance) and compare it to a similar population.


 

 

What is the difference between GPS and GNSS?

 

The term "global navigation satellite system" (GNSS) refers to all satellite constellations in orbit; GPS is one of numerous constellations that make up GNSS. Many constellations make up GNSS, from GPS to GLONASS (managed by Russia's Roscosmos State Corporation for Space Activities). 

 

To provide precise and dependable PNT, positioning technology relies on a variety of constellations. Instead of comparing GNSS and GPS, it's more useful to evaluate how GPS compares to other GNSS constellations.

 

Watch this: How GPS Works Today



The Global Positioning System (GPS) was one of the first satellite positioning systems to be built, and its innovations continue to assist the growth and use of positioning technology to this day. GPS will remain at the heart of everyday life as GPS-based autonomous applications grow increasingly common.

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