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GPS Global Positioning System

Seminar topic for Computer Science department.


Global Positioning System (GPS) is a worldwide radio-navigation system created by the U. S. Department of Defense (DOD) to provide navigation, location, and timing information for military operations. System testing using a limited number of satellites began in 1978 with the system being declared fully operational in 1995.

The system was declared available for civilian uses in the 1980s and has seen burgeoning civilian application for navigation and mapping. GPS is the U.S. implementation of a Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS).

Increasingly, GPS receivers have the capability to utilize signals from other GNSS such as the Russian GLONASS or European Galileo systems. SESD has no limitations on the use of signals from other GNSS.

The GPS system consists of three basic elements: the space segment, control segment, and user segment. The space segment consists of the constellation of up to 24 active NAVSTAR satellites in six orbital tracks.

The satellites are not in geo-synchronous orbit and are in constant motion relative to a ground user. The control segment consists of several ground stations that serve as uplinks to the satellites and that make adjustments to satellite orbits and clocks when necessary.

The user segment consists of the GPS receiver which will typically consist of an antenna, multi-channel receiver, and processing unit. For the purposes of this document, the user segment GPS receivers may be loosely grouped into Recreational and Navigational receivers (henceforth referred to as General-Use receivers), Mapping Grade receivers, and Survey Grade receivers

 Most General-Use grade receivers are available on the retail market to consumers for a variety of applications including boating, hiking, and automotive navigation. They display an instantaneous reading of position and are generally not optimized for data collection. Waypoints containing instantaneous position fixes can often be stored and downloaded. The accuracy of these receivers is adequate for many environmental applications.

Mapping Grade receivers are used for applications such as resource management and Geographical Information System (GIS) feature collection. The receivers are capable of averaging multiple position fixes for greater accuracy and then datalogging the results with sufficient information to post-correct the positions as described below. The accuracy that can be achieved may be better than one meter.

Survey Grade receivers can provide accuracy at the centimeter level by using long occupation times and special techniques for receiver use and data processing. Survey Grade receivers are not currently used by SESD in field investigations.

GPS receivers derive positions by simultaneously measuring the distance (range) to several satellites in precisely known orbits, and using trilateration of the ranges to calculate a unique position for the receiver. The range to each satellite is determined by precisely measuring the transit time of radio signals broadcast from the satellites.

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