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What Is the Global Positioning System in Aviation?

Pilots are using more advanced technologies than before, many of which have revolutionized the way they conduct flight operations. One major example of this is the debut of GPS navigation. GPS (global positioning system) technology has had an exponential growth rate in aviation use over recent years because it offers faster access to data and better accuracy for navigating around airports or other confined spaces where traditional technology falls short.

Navigation, whether it be through land or sea, can be tricky without the use of satellites. The NAVSTAR system is a network of satellites maintained in an orbit around the earth, allowing us to calculate location with incredible accuracy. With satellites constantly transmitting coded signals, it is possible to locate an aircraft with the help of built-in receivers and a few other types of equipment, like VORs and RNAV systems, which will make sure you stay on course at all times.

Segments of Global Positioning Systems (GPS)

Understanding the three segments that make up GPS can help you learn about such amazing tools. These 3 segments of GPS are:

  • Space segments
  • Control segments
  • User segments

 Aircraft technicians are an integral part of the air travel experience. They are only involved with user segment equipment such as GPS receivers, displays, and antennas that assist pilots in navigating their way to whatever they need to go next.

With the robust design and advanced capabilities of GPS technology, accuracy is easy to attain? There are six separate plains of orbit 12,625 feet above the planet with several satellites in them, making up what we know as “the space segment.” These satellites are placed such that at least four satellites are viewable from any given location on earth anytime.

When an aircraft’s GPS receiver needs to know its position, it receives signals from several satellites. The time it takes for these messages to be received and details about where each satellite is located are combined in order to calculate your aircraft’s current coordination with pinpoint accuracy.

The control segment of a GPS monitor is crucial to ensuring precise location and time. The GPS tracks and maintains the location of each satellite through five ground-based stations, a master control station on earth, and three antennas for transmission. Then received data is then sent back up to satellites above our atmosphere, where it is processed by an algorithm before being distributed across all receiving devices in order to ensure accuracy.

GPS is the most accurate method for navigating aircraft. The user segment consists of a control panel, receiver circuitry, and antennas which are usually installed in one unit with VOR/ILS components and communication equipment to aid pilots during airborne operations.

How Does GPS Technology work?

GPS receivers measure the time it takes for signals to be sent from satellites and received. These radio waves travel at 186,000 miles per second, and so their intersection provides you with coordinates accurate enough for flying applications. By calculating the distance from their transmitters, 2D coordinates of an aircraft can be calculated and converted into latitude/longitude readings that provide accurate positioning of an aircraft’s 3D positioning with incredible accuracy.

Much like a compass, a GPS unit provides directional information to help you navigate. The device processes many useful navigational outputs such as speed and bearing toward waypoints which can be used by pilots in flight for reference points while travelling long distances between destinations. It also stores previously entered coordinates into its memory, so they are always at hand when needed. Most modern models come standard with moving map displays that allow pilots to pinpoint coverage of their current location.

GPS is a useful navigational tool because it is immune to weather-related service disruptions. The waves used in GPS travel through the ionosphere, but these errors are kept at manageable levels and can be corrected with enough time. This makes for an affordable option when compared against other technologies like LFARs, which have high costs associated due to infrastructure needs (such as being installed in airplanes).

GPS receivers are accurate within 20 meters horizontally and vertically, but departures and approaches require higher accuracy. The wide area augmentation system (WAAS) can improve your GPS data by integrating it with other sources such as cellular towers for better accuracy than ever before.

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