What is GPS? And Here’s How it works

What is GPS and how it works

Introduction:

GPS is a short form of a Global Positioning System. The first name of the GPS was Navstar. The main task of this technology is to help in the navigation of people on Land, sea and air. When we talk about earlier days, this technology was only available to the people who were in the military. And then, later on, it became available to the general public.

Moreover, the United States Space Force operates the GPS. Before the invention of this navigation technology, people used stars for navigation. Along with stars, people also used compasses and Maps to navigate on the Earth. This navigation technology is comprised of satellites, Groudstations and receivers. All these things combined help to get accurate geolocation.

As of June 15, 2021, there are a total of 31 operational satellites in the GPS constellation. When talking about the satellites there are 24 Core satellites and the rest of the satellites are emergency replacements. Such that if anything goes wrong, the replacement satellites will handle the task.

How does GPS work?

These satellites fly at an altitude of 20,200 km (or 12,550 miles) in Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) at a speed of 14,000 km/h. Each satellite circles the Earth twice a day. Each of the satellites sends unique signals and other orbital parameters to the GPS devices.

Thereafter, the device decodes the signal and calculates the exact location of the satellite. The GPS receiver uses this information along with the technique called Trilateration to find out the exact location of the user.

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In order to find your 2-D position that includes latitude and longitude, a GPS receiver must be connected to the signals of at least 3 satellites. Another thing to note is that when in connection with 4 or more satellites, the receiver can calculate your 3-D position that includes latitude, longitude and altitude.

Accuracy of GPS:

The accuracy of this navigation technology depends on a variety of factors. Such as the number of available satellites, location of the user on Earth, the ionosphere and so on. Some points that reduce the accuracy of GPS are:

  • Physical Barrier: The signals sent to the Earth can be reflected off by tall buildings or mountains before it reaches the receiver. This will increase the signal’s travel time and cause errors.
  • Receiver’s Clock error: It is possible that receiver’s clock may be inaccurate as it uses regular Quartz clock. On the other hand, GPS satellites uses atomic clock which is very accurate in comparision to Quartz clock. Also it is not possible to have atomic clock in the receiver because they are very costly, and are present in between $50,000 and $1,00,000.
  • Atmospheric Conditions: Solar storms, Ionospheric delays and other heavy storms can impact the performance of the GPS devices.
  • Orbital Errors: The reported location of satellite may be inaccurate, decreasing the accuracy of the GPS devices.

So now let’s see the applications of the GPS.

Applications:

Entertainment:

Pokémon GO is a game that is based on Augmented Reality which uses GPS for its functioning. Moreover, it is also a very popular game and has over 1 Billion downloads. Also, activities such as Geocaching use this technology for its proper functioning.

pokemon go

Health and Fitness:

Nowadays smartwatches or smart wearables have inbuilt GPS technology in them. And this enables these smart wearables to track health and fitness-related activities such as running distance and so on. Moreover, this tracked data is compared against similar demographics.

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Transportation:

Vehicles these days come with GPS inbuilt and this facilitates the driver of the vehicle to go from one location to another easily. Even most of the food delivering services uses GPS technology for delivering food to the intended destinations from favourite restaurants.

a man Driving his car using GPS navigation

GPS in Construction and Mining:

This is also an area where this kind of technology helps people at their work. This technology helps people in locating their equipment. Also, this technology helps companies in measuring and improving asset allocation.

Conclusion:

In the conclusion part, we can say that GPS technology is helping us in many ways. From entertainment to getting driving assistance this technology is everywhere. But it is also a noteworthy point that, in most cases, technology helps us in accomplishing our tasks. But sometimes technology also fails to perform its intended tasks.

Take the example of this GPS technology, sometimes it fails to provide the right path during driving. And the result may be you will find yourself stuck on the suggested path. Even once it has also suggested to me the wrong path as a good shortcut, and I was ultimately devastated. So I think this is enough for this post. Put your thoughts in the comment section below. And thanks for reading this post. see you in the next post.

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