The way we work and play has changed with the invention of GPS, which can be used when you are flying, driving, fishing, hiking, sailing, biking, running etc. Information is at your fingertips with a GPS receiver. If you are running, you will be able to find out how far you have run and at what pace. You will also be able to track your steps back home. If you happen to be out of town, finding the nearest airport or your favorite restaurant at the closest location is extremely simple.
GPS or the Global Positioning System is a satellite-based navigation system that can send and receive radio signals through a GPS receiver. The beauty of GPS technology is that it helps you determine the location, time and velocity at any time of the day or night under any weather conditions, anywhere in the world for free.
This beautiful technology was made for the convenience of the military. However, the government gave permission for civilian use because of the most useful navigation capabilities and because the GPS technology can be accessed with inexpensive and small equipment.
There are three segments that the GPS technology needs: Space Segment, Control Segment and the User Segment.
Space Segment: The coded radio signals are sent to the earth by any one of the 24 GPS satellites orbiting the earth twice in a day, 12,000 miles above the earth’s surface. They are positioned in such a way that any GPS receiver in the world can receive signals from at least four of these satellites. These signals can pass through cloud, gas and plastic. However, they cannot pass through solid materials such as buildings, objects that contain a lot of metal or under water. Since these satellites are powered by solar energy, when they are under the earth’s shadow, they use battery backup.
Control Segment: This is responsible for monitoring the health of the satellites, such as the orbital configuration and the signal strength.
User Segment: This involves the GPS receivers. These receivers collect and process signals from the satellites and use this information to determine the location, time, speed etc. The GPS receivers cannot transmit any information back to the GPS satellites.
How GPS Technology Works
• The Control Segment monitors the GPS satellites and sends information to ensure maximum accuracy for users.
• The GPS receiver collects information from the available satellites.
• The GPS receiver determines the location, time and velocity.
• The GPS receiver calculates other information, such as trip distance, track, destination distance, time at either sunrise or sunset etc.
• This information is displayed on the screen for the user to check.
The Importance of GPS In Various Fields
The amazing capabilities of GPS technology make it extremely useful for people in all fields. This technology is used by farmers for monitoring the application of pesticides and fertilizers. Location information is also provided to show areas that need to be weeded, that are diseased etc. It is a boon for the aviation industry and provides information on en route navigation as well as airport approaches. This satellite navigation provides the most accurate aircraft location anywhere in the world. For environmental uses, the GPS satellites provide the location of disaster areas, such as hurricanes, oil spills or forest fires. Marine navigation is helped a great deal for routing traffic, underwater surveying, mapping or displaying hazard locations. All the military vehicles such as jeeps, trucks, ships, tanks, submarines and aircrafts use GPS technology extensively for navigation, weapon technology, air support, target determination and a whole lot of other things. Similarly, railways use it too as well as emergency services, to determine accident locations etc. There are numerous ways GPS technology is used in ground transportation. It is used for vehicle navigation and automatic vehicle location. Many navigation systems show the vehicle location on an electronic street map. This helps drivers keep track of their whereabouts. There are some systems that create a route automatically and give instructions turn-by-turn.
One of the most important functions of GPS is to provide the exact time for users. Paging companies rely on GPS technology to synchronize the transmission of information.
How Accurate Are GPS Signals?
If you are wondering about the accuracy of GPS, these signals are so accurate that time can be figured to less than a millionth of a second, location can be determined to within a few meters and velocity can be figured to within a fraction of a mile per hour. This accuracy can be increased by ensuring the GPS receiver is in a place without obstacles between the sky and the receiver. When the GPS receiver is turned on, it should be kept for a few minutes in a place without obstacles. This will get a good fix on the satellites and will provide better accuracy for about 4-6 hours.
What To Look For When Buying
Deciding on buying a GPS receiver can be quite overwhelming. It is important to first decide on the requirement for the unit, for example if it is going to be used for running or travelling. The things to keep in mind are the product level, whether just the basic unit is needed or a lot of frills; power source; portability, whether a portable or a built-in unit is needed; mapping capability, whether just the general direction is needed or street level directions; mounts for a GPS; ease of use; antenna configuration, whether in-built or external; price range – an inexpensive basic GPS is the perfect way to get familiar with the world of GPS technology; map software, whether you wish to plan a vacation or save a trip.
While GPS technology is very advanced and popular, it should be used as a compliment to navigation and not used as a complete navigational tool by itself. A safe practice would be to use a simple compass, paper map and have knowledge of the manual navigation. But a GPS receiver will certainly make life easier and most convenient.