What Are GPS Navigation Systems?

Ever since they first started showing up in vehicles in the mid 1990's people have been wondering how GPS navigation systems work. We have all seen the television commercial of the lady that locks her keys in the car and calls her satellite service for help. The next thing you know the person on the other end of the phone is able to unlock the lady's door and she can go on her way.

Aside from the creepy factor of knowing that someone so far away has control over your vehicle there is the science and wonder factor that makes people wonder how GPS navigation systems really work. How do they do that? How does this little device know where it is and how can it tell you where you are going and how to get there? It is all space age science and it has been going on since the 1980's.

GPS navigation systems stands for Global Positioning System and it uses satellites to determine position. There is what the government calls a constellation of around 24 satellites that the military launched many years ago that were designed to help the military track vehicles and people anywhere in the world.

The satellites emit microwaves and the GPS navigation system receivers pick up that microwave and use it to figure its location. Usually a GPS navigation system receiver will pick up on at least four satellite signals in order to help it triangulate its location and use that information, in conjunction with software built into the receiver, to determine location and then give out all of the information it has regarding that area.

Then Ronnie Stepped In

In 1983 Korean Air flight 007 was shot down because the Soviet fighter pilot trailing the passenger airliner could not determine if the plane was hostile or not. Immediately following that tragedy President Ronald Reagan ordered that the military GPS navigation system that had been in use for years be opened to the public for public use.

Ever since then the GPS navigation system industry has exploded and the advances in technology have been astounding. It is estimated that the GPS navigation system satellites cost about $1 Billion per year in maintenance, research and development, and the replacing of dead satellites.

When the GPS navigation system industry was opened up the pace of technological advancement has been greatly accelerated both in the private sector and in the military. Devices such as cell phones and watches can now tell you where you are and how to get where you want to go. It is interesting to see what they will come up with next.