Garmin defines the Global Positioning System or GPS as a satellite based navigation system that is made up of a group of 24 satellites that have been placed into orbit by the United States Department of Defense (Garmin 1). Originally, the Global Positioning System was referred to as Navstar Global Positioning System. The satellites that form the GPS are made to circle the earth two times a day in an exact orbit. The satellites later get to transmit different signals to the earth surface (Garmin 1). The information obtained from the satellites is then taken by GPS receivers to be used to calculate the exact location of the user (Garmin 1). The GPS is made up of three different segments each with a unique function. The segments interact with one another to provide the desired results. The three are; the space segment that comprises of 24 satellites which transmit signals that identify the current position and time of the GPS satellite, the control segment consists of worldwide monitor as well as control stations and these are used to maintain the satellites in the required orbits, and finally the user segment which includes the GPS receiver meant to receive signals sent from the GPS satellites. The GPS receiver then uses these signals to calculate the user’s exact location both in space and time (U.S. Government 1).
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On a daily basis, there is always a need to determine where one is. This happens either consciously or unconsciously. James Randy in his research showed that too many people today make use of the Global Positioning System which has now become a very important part of their lives. Among the frequent users of the GPS are those who enjoy hiking, ambulance drivers dealing with emergencies, fighter pilots, and even poachers, though for illegal in some areas of the world. Many other people use the global positioning system so as to know where they are at any particular time and also to check where they intend to go to. In search of adventure, some people have used the GPS in a game referred to as geo-caching (James 1). Over the years, the GPS has gained popularity among different groups and has become an indispensable tool for a great number of users. Cell phone manufacturers and oil drillers are also among those who have now discovered that the use of the satellite global positioning system is very central to their operations (James 1). James also explains that for a long time, the Americans have used the GPS in their military combats to guide the missiles and bombs to their destinations. These happened in wars that involved Iraq, Afghanistan as well as other places (1).
Origin and Development of Global Positioning System
According to Ford (1), the US military started the development of the Global Positioning System, in the year 1973. Following years of research, analysis and development the final result was the very first satellite that came to existences in the year 1989 (Ford 1). At first, the use of the satellite was strictly reserved for the U.S. military troops and this was mainly for security reasons as U.S. sought to deal with opponents in a swift manner. However, during its development period, President Ronald Reagan of the United States of America held a very strong conviction about its use being extended to the civilians after it was fully developed and put to use (Ford 1). The full operation of the GPS system was eventually realized in the year 1994 with the 24th GPS satellite being launched into the orbit (Ford 1). Upon its launch, the need to immediately allow civilians to use it became quite clear and it was soon adopted for use in keeping track of aircrafts that were being used for commercial purposes (Ford 1). One year later, after the GPS went on line, satellite navigation devices were seen in cars. Ford argues that the Global Positioning System development has been continuously advancing over the years with improvements being made from stage to stage. This went on until a point was eventually reached where 24 satellites could comfortably be used. With the current Global Positioning System 30 satellites can be used to achieve the desired operations (1). President Reagan paved the way for civilians to use the GPS in the year 1983. This was prompted by a disaster that resulted from the Soviets defending themselves. Soviet fighter jets shot down and destroyed the Korean Air flight 007 that accidentally found itself in the Soviet airspace. This was a passenger jet that had 269 passengers on board and unfortunately, they all lost their lives (James 1).
The study by Ford further shows that each of the satellites is created with a life span of ten years when subjected to rigorous use (1). Newer modernized satellites always came with improved or added functionalities as well as with more power and efficiency than those found in the previous generations (Ford 1). A projection into the future shows that the Global Positioning System has been a great success, and will keep on evolving and improving (Ford 1).
According to James (1), the origin of the satellite navigation system is linked closely linked to the work done by the Soviet when they launched their original satellite that was popularly known as Sputnit in 1957. Scientific research also revealed that it was possible to track the satellite’s orbit by simply listening to the changes in its radio frequency over time (James 1). President Reagan opened the use of the navigational system to non-military uses in 1983 after Soviet fighter jets shot down Korean Air flight 007, killing scores of people.
Applications of the GPS
Besides the uses that have already been mentioned in this paper, there are many other important uses of the GPS. According to U.S. Government (1), the Global Positioning System has a varied number of uses among military as well as non-military users. In the U.S. military, it has been used as an effective means of determining the actual position of the target before launching any attacks.
Apart from the military usage, the GPS is also used in many other areas of our every day lives such as the effective management of fleets of vehicles and dealing with emergencies. It is a very important tool for people who frequently deal with emergencies such as the hospitals, fire fighters or security teams on patrol. The GPS makes it easy to locate places where the emergencies are before it too late. In cars, they are used to aid in navigation so a driver can easily tell his or her location and also be able to tell the directions. Scientists also employ the GPS in counting wild animals. Construction engineers also had their share of using GPS devices.
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GPS Related Accidents
Although the Global Positoning System devices have revolutionized the way we live and move around, they have their good share of challenges. According to NYLB (1), there is no doubt that the GPS has been a lifesaver in a number of situations and will continue to offer help in various instances.
On the other hand, however, the GPS has been linked to the occurrence of numerous accidents not only in New York but in other places as well. Several GPS related accidents have been recorded in New York raising concerns about the safety of users of GPS devices (NYLB 1). NYLB (1) describes an incident that involved a driver from California who caused a serious car accident by depending heavily on the GPS to guide him all the way to his destination. The accident occurred when this driver made a turn that led him onto railroad tracks in Bedford Hills. The incident resulted in having his vehicle get hit by an approaching train as the car got stuck on the railroad tracks and could not be moved out quickly before the actually arrival of the train to the spot. The driver later blamed his heavy reliance on the GPS for this misfortune. Luckily, he managed to escape and was never hurt (NYLB 1). A research done by Dan Brucker in the year 2005 indicated that a greater number of drivers informed the police that they faithfully follow GPS devices without paying attention to the road signs placed at different locations (NYLB 1). A Garmin spoke man pointed out that a considerable percentage of cars were equipped with GPS devices and obviously many of the drivers used them to figure out directions (NYLB 1).
Investigators have raised alarm regarding the increased dependence on the GPS and are urging people to ensure that despite having and using their GPS devices, they must prioritize following of road rules (NYLB 1).
Ford, Abe. History of GPS. Boston: Reader Spot Articles. 2011. Web.
Garmin. What is GPS? Kansas: Garmin Ltd. 2011. Web.
James, Randy. GPS. New York: Times Inc. 2011. Web.
New York Legal Blog (NYLB). New York Car Accidents Caused by GPS Devices. New York: New York Legal Blog. 2008. Web.
U.S. Government. The Global Positioning System. U.S: The U.S. Government. 2011. Web.