How GPS Works

The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a technical marvel made possible by a
group of satellites in earth orbit that transmit precise signals, allowing GPS
receivers to calculate and display accurate location, speed, and time
information to the user. By capturing the signals from three or more satellites (among a constellation
of 31 satellites available), GPS receivers are able to use the mathematical
principle of trilateration to pinpoint your location. With the addition of computing power, and data stored in memory such as
road maps, points of interest, topographic information, and much more, GPS
receivers are able to convert location, speed, and time information into a
useful display format. GPS was originally created by the United States Department of Defense
(DOD) as a military application. The system has been active since the early
1980s, but began to become useful to civilians in the late 1990s. Consumer
GPS has since become a multi-billion dollar industry with a wide array of
products, services, and Internet-based utilities. GPS works accurately in all weather conditions, day or night, around the
clock, and around the globe. There is no subscription fee for use of GPS
signals. GPS signals may be blocked by dense forest, canyon walls, or
skyscrapers, and they don’t penetrate indoor spaces well, so some
locations may not permit accurate GPS navigation. GPS receivers are generally accurate within 15 meters, and newer models
that use Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) signals are accurate within
three meters. While the U.S. owned and operated GPS is currently the only active system,
five other satellite-based global navigation systems are being developed by
individual nations and by multi-nation consortiums.
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