Global Positioning System - How Big Brother Began

Global Positioning System (GPS) has taken the world of navigation by surprise. Originally intended by the United States Military Defense for military use, GPS became available to the civilian world in the early 80s. Today it is used virtually in all aspects of life.

The Global Positioning System, better known as GPS, is a satellite-based navigation system that is powered by 24 satellites that have been strategically placed into orbit by the Department of Defense. It works anywhere in the world 24 hours a day in any weather condition. Precision is determined by perfect orbit of the satellites circling the earth to transmit information.

It uses triangulation, a technique for establishing the distance between any two points, or the relative position of two or more points based on the known measurements of the two points to locate the third as in the vertices of a triangle.

1. The applications of GPS

GPS navigation system is a large part of our land, sea, and air movements. It is used by scientists largely for precision timing and information, such as determining the pathways of supernovas or meteorites and such other experiments that depend on precision for accuracy.

The weather system also uses GPS for tracking, sunrise and sunset times, and other types of weather forecasting.

Navigation by GPS is used by commercial fishermen, professional boaters, and lighthouse guardians at sea. In the air, GPS is used by commercial aircraft and all air type of navigation. There are a variety of uses for GPS on land. Surveyors use GPS for basic survey saving dollars on reduced survey times.

For daily life activities, such as jogging, hiking, biking, mountain-climbing, winter activities, such as cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, snowboarding, and other such activities. Positioning, location, and speed are determined.

GPS is also big in the automobile industry. Some car companies now have dispatch centers that are able to help drivers who get lost or just want to get directions. More sophisticated ones guides users to places or locations they want to go or shows you exactly where you are in a map.

2. How accurate is a GPS

Most GPS locating and navigating is fairly accurate. According to some information published online several factors may affect the accuracy of a GPS such as:

  • Ionosphere and stratosphere delays mean satellite reception slows down at it passes an atmosphere
  • Signal multi path is when the signal passes through objects like tall buildings or rock surfaces causing delays in transmission
  • Receiver clock mistakes
  • Orbital blunders
  • The number of satellites visible at any given time
  • Satellite geometry or shading meaning not in the ideal satellite position at wide angles
  • Intentional degradation of the satellite signal (which was removed by the US in May 2000 thus enhancing the civilian GPS).

Now that we know more or less what a GPS is and where it is mostly used, we may want to try and use one for ourselves. Owning a GPS is highly convenient if we travel a lot. It is also a good recommendation for hikers, trekkers, and trail walkers. Just like any other electronic device, we purchase the right device according to our needs and budget.

3. Choosing the right GPS

Let us now find out the perfect GPS depending on our lifestyle. The number of portable GPS has multiplied and the prices have gone done. But as a first time buyer, and not so savvy about the device, we can kind of get overwhelmed. There are several factors to consider:

  • check out the maps included
  • look at the features (lights, etc)
  • check all the accessories and
  • make sure all gadgets to make it work are there although nowadays GPS navigation systems have become very simple and easy to mount
  • consider also other features that have been continuously added by most manufacturers, if they apply to you other wise stick to the most important use that you want
  • compare prices
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