How does GPS work?

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Everyone’s used GPS to get a fix on a location or find directions, but has anyone ever stopped to see how the devices work? Well, the global positioning system (GPS) is a system of 30 satellites in Earth’s atmosphere. By having a device with some form of GPS on it, people can get into this system.

No matter where someone goes on Earth, their GPS devices will be in range of four satellites, and the device and satellites send messages to one another. Where the person is on the planet is a measure of distance, as how long the messages take to arrive show how far the satellite is.

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Triangulating a position

It might be used during military and spy movies, but the process of Trilateration is real and extremely useful. Since everyone in the world is visible by at least three satellites at any given time, their position can be triangulated.

It’s almost like using the Pythagorean theorem, where someone attempts to determine how far away a signal is from one satellite, and then for two others. Using those measurements, they can draw a shape (usually a circle or triangle) on a map and then have a pretty good guess at where someone is based on the results.

This can narrow down a search time considerably, especially if the GPS signal is picked up by more satellites.

Keeping people up to date

GPS satellites are as accurate as they can be in order to keep people safe and give them pertinent information about the world around them, and it’s because of GPS and the components inside of them such as quadrature hybrid couplers that all of this is possible.

Without GPS, there would be more lost people in the world, and not a lot of ways to find them.