How does the GPS (Global Positioning System) system work?

GPS System:

GPS System
Global Positioning System

GPS stands for Global Positioning System. GPS, mainly NAVSTAR GPS, is a satellite-based radio positioning system known as the radio navigation system. GPS is owned by the US Government and maintained and operated by the United States Space Force. There are 33 GPS satellites in orbit, 32 in orbit at the height of 20,180 km. The first GPS satellite was launched in February 1978, 42 years ago. 


Since 1993, 24 GPS satellites have been operational for Global Positioning System. 

Navigation satellites - How does GPS work?

A total of 24 NAVSTAR GPS satellites cover the entire earth from low orbit. There are at least 3 or 4 satellites visible from anywhere on the planet simultaneously, and it's enough to calculate the location of any GPS-enabled device. 

Navigation satellites - How GPS works?
GPS system


There are six basic steps behind a GPS system:

  1. GPS works using the "triangulation" or "trilateration" method. 
  2. The system needs to get a signal from at least 3 satellites to locate a device. 4 satellites are suitable for more accurate location tracking.
  3. After a successful connection, the receiver calculates the distance between the satellite. It measures the distance by calculating how much time it took to receive a message from the satellite. The formula is simple. (distance = time of arrival * speed of light).
  4. To measure message arrival time, satellites use the atomic clock on board each satellite to ensure an accurate time. 
  5. GPS receiver also needs to know the distance between each satellite and their satellite in space.
  6. As the receiver knows the distance and the position of 3 or 4 satellites, it can measure where the ground device is located using some mathematical calculation. 

The GPS receiver needs to connect to at least 3-to 4 devices. 

Arduino Based NEO-6M GPS module:

NEO-6M is an Arduino-based GPS receiver with a built-in antenna made out of ceramics. The performance of NEO-6M is good, and the accuracy is also high depending on the satellite connectivity and availability. This is high quality, cost-effective, high-performance, and a very popular GPS device for developers. 

NEO-6M GPS module
NEO-6M GPS module

Watch a video on "How does the GPS system work? How to connect neo 6m with Arduino? Why no signal in the GPS Module?"

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