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Perhaps one of the greatest wonders of the modern age has been the development and deployment of our global navigation satellite system or GNSS. Despite the first GPS satellite navigation systems only launching in the late 1970s, they have rapidly gone on to change everything about how we perceive the world.

They are essential for navigation, shipping, mapping, urban design, security, defence, logistics, and countless other applications. But what exactly is GNSS, and why does it matter to us? Read on to find out.

1. What is GNSS?

First, it is worth breaking down what GNSS satellite navigation actually is. The term “GNSS” refers to the constellation of satellites that surrounds the globe. These are the satellites that provide signals from space, which then transmit huge amounts of positioning data to the GNSS receivers.

These receivers are then tasked with using this data to determine and map precise, real-time locations for devices all around the globe. GNSS refers to the global network coverage. Components of GNSS include the US NAVSTAR System (GPS), Russia’s GLONASS, and Europe’s Galileo system.

The effectiveness of any GNSS system is measured by a number of factors, including the accuracy of the data that the GNSS transmits to receivers. A good GNSS system should also offer continuity and be able to function in a variety of adverse conditions. It should also be able to constantly transmit positioning data at all times, without interruption.

2. How Does GNSS Work?

Let’s break down how a GNSS satellite actually does the job. To illustrate this, we will use the example of the US GPS system. A GPS satellite will orbit the entire globe once every 12 hours, at an altitude of 20,200 km. There are six orbital planes that are all evenly spaced apart, with four satellites located in each plane.

This is so that there is always a minimum number of satellites above the horizon at any given time, to ensure maximum coverage and continuity. Each satellite will constantly transmit two carrier waves in the “L-Band” towards the planet Earth at the speed of light. These waves are called L1 and L2.

GNSS satellites can suffer from signal loss or degradation over time. This is why innovations such as a Tightly Coupled GNSS-INS Simulation are often used to help support the GNSS.

3. What Are the Applications of GNSS?

To underscore the crucial importance of GNSS, it’s worth going over some of the many, many applications of it. We all benefit from GNSS on a daily basis. Here’s how:

  • Transport: provide accurate and up-to-date road traffic data.
  • Logistics: ensure seamless transportation of goods around the world.
  • Automation: automate processes such as port shipping and car parking.
  • Agriculture: maximize the efficiency of farming.
  • Surface mining: ensure safe materials mining.
  • Seismic surveys: determine areas of seismic sensitivity.

Learn More About the Tech That Matters

GNSS is just one of those essential technologies that it pays to know more about. If you are fascinated by the tech that makes the world go around, we have got you covered. Go to our dedicated tech section to learn more.


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