How does the GNSS work?

This article explains how GNSS works to provide real-time navigation data.

How does the GNSS work?

How does the GNSS works?

We have been using Google Maps for a long time for the shortest distances. Punch in where you want to go and voila, you are getting directions from the exact place where you are! 

The GNSS or the Global Navigation Satellite System uses small satellites to pinpoint the exact location of a users receiver device. 


GNSS-Global Navigation Satellite System- is the generic term for satellite navigation systems that provide autonomous geo-spatial positioning with global coverage. This term includes GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, Beidou, IRNSS and other regional networks.

The advantage of having access to multiple satellites is accuracy, redundancy, and availability at all times. Though satellite systems don't often fail, if one fails, GNSS receivers can pick up signals from other systems.  Also, if the line of sight is obstructed, having access to multiple satellites is also a benefit.  

This technology was first developed in the United States for the defence forces by the US Air Force. 

Contrary to popular belief, GPS is not the generic term for a navigation system- it is, in fact, the name of the American navigation system which popularised so much, once opened to the public- that it became the generic term for Navigation Systems worldwide!

One of the main reasons we now have access to this technology is overall advancement and improvement of IT and the availability of more sophisticated technology in our palms- the smartphone. 

There are several GNSS that are upcoming, like the European Galileo, and the Russian GLONASS. 

The GPS is a collection of 32 Earth-orbiting satellites in 6 orbital planes. 

The exact number of satellites varies because the old ones have been replaced or are redundant.

So how exactly does the GNSS technology function? 

Simply put, their principle and primary operations are to transmit carrier waves which themselves transmit information from satellites to a receiver on the Earth. 

A GNSS receiver has two elements comprising of an antenna and a processor; undoubtedly- the antenna catches signals while the processor decodes and makes sense of information transmitted.
To know the accurate location of a receiver, it needs to have signals transmitted from a minimum of three satellites. 

The impact of GNSS can be seen in a multitude of fields ranging from precision agriculture to banking. Both of these sectors use the same technology to suit different needs.

WATCH- What is GPS? Know All About GPS.

While the agriculture sector uses GNSS for accurate land measurement and smart crop technology, the banking sector uses this technology for timing and precision as milliseconds may cost millions in a time sensitive sector like finance. 

This is a dynamic technology that has been rapidly booming throughout the world with over 1 Billion handheld devices (smartphones and tablets) having GNSS configured as basic setup now. 

Geospatial and satellites as a technology and as well as an industry have seen explosive growth. With this growth being in the ballpark of millions- this technology is not going to be made redundant in the near future.