How Does GPS Work?

Global Positioning System (GPS) – a system of global positioning through satellite navigation – today is one of the most evolving technologies that finds application in various fields. GPS technology is now used in business, production, and by ordinary people for common purposes.


Developed in the 1950s by the U.S. Department of Defense, the GPS system is a very complex structure, which can be understood only by a specialist in this field. Nevertheless, we will explain the general principles of work in simple terms.

GPS is based on three main segments:

  • – space;
  • – control;
  • – custom.

The space segment is currently represented by 32 satellites located in medium earth orbit. Satellites broadcast a radio signal, which is intercepted by transmitters on Earth. The signal allows you to determine in real-time the location of an object equipped with a GPS-receiver (custom segment).

The control segment includes monitoring stations, the main control station and antennas, which are integrated into a common network on the Earth.



Although the project was originally developed for military purposes, today the vast majority of users are civilians. Almost any modern mobile device is equipped with a GPS-navigator, not to mention the professional equipment of sailors, pilots, rescuers, doctors, scientists and, of course, the military.


  • Cartography. With the help of GPS, detailed maps and plans of terrain with landform of any complexity are drawn up. These maps can also be used in a variety of ways – from tourism to the elaboration of military strategies;
  • Geodesy. The precise boundaries of land plots and the coordinates of any specific objects are marked off;
  • Transport monitoring. Everyone knows the “map of traffic jams”. Without the help of GPS, tracking traffic flow would be an unaffordable luxury with the use of air tracking;
  • Cellular communication. It is used to determine the exact location of the subscriber calling the rescue service, because the victim cannot always accurately indicate his coordinates or simply does not have time to do it;
  • Tectonics. GPS helps to observe the movements of tectonic plates. This allows to predict earthquakes and volcanic eruptions;
  • Computer games. There is a whole game genre that uses the location of the player in real time;
  • Weather forecast. Hundreds of meteorological stations around the world transmit data on weather conditions and at the same time connect them to their location;
  • Aviation and Sailing. GPS transmitters allow to track aircraft or vessel directions in real time and, if necessary, respond quickly to a distress signal;
  • Geo targeting. Often used by social networks visitors;
  •  Navigation. Perhaps the most common application of GPS for today. Everyone can easily determine his location in an unfamiliar place and quickly find a route to desired address. In addition, the coordinates of cafes, restaurants and hotels are loaded into the maps. So, the search for the right place with the development of GPS takes a few seconds.



The technology of global positioning is firmly established in everyday life due to its advantages:

  • Simplicity for users. You do not need to be an expert to start using the application for a smartphone with GPS support;
  • Cheapness. All that you need today is to purchase a device with a GPS receiver, the cost of which is extremely low. They are built into computers and ATMs, phones and even cameras;
  • Worldwide coverage. The entire globe, except for poles, is covered by the GPS network;
  • High accuracy. Today, advanced technologies allow to determine the location of the receiver or transmitter to within one meter. The quality of GPS functioning is practically independent of weather conditions.

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