The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a space-based satellite navigation system that provides location and time information in all weather conditions, anywhere on or near the Earth where there is an unobstructed line of sight to four or more GPS satellites. The system provides critical capabilities to military, civil, and commercial users around the world.
The GPS system concept is based on time. The satellites carry very stable atomic clocks that are synchronized to each other and to ground clocks. Any drift from true time maintained on the ground is corrected daily. Likewise, the satellite locations are monitored precisely.
GPS receivers have clocks as well—however, they are not synchronized with true time, and are less stable.
GPS satellites continuously transmit their current time and position. A GPS receiver monitors multiple satellites and solves equations to determine the exact position of the receiver and its deviation from true time. At a minimum, four satellites must be in view of the receiver for it to compute four unknown quantities (three position coordinates and clock deviation from satellite time).
Many applications use a combination of the above categories. The following is a list of some additional areas where the global positioning service is being applied:
airport and harbour approaches
animal migration and population studies
construction – tunnels, golf courses, roads, etc.
emergency services – the closest ambulance or fire truck is sent to an emergency, thereby saving time.
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