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How GPS Works, Step 5: Correcting errors

How GPS Works, Step 5: Correcting errors

 

 

All About GPS
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First, one of the basic assumptions we've been using throughout this tutorial is not exactly true. We've been saying that you calculate distance to a satellite by multiplying a signal's travel time by the speed of light. But the speed of light is only constant in a vacuum.

As a GPS signal passes through the charged particles of the ionosphere and then through the water vapor in the troposphere it gets slowed down a bit, and this creates the same kind of error as bad clocks.

There are a couple of ways to minimize this kind of error. For one thing we can predict what a typical delay might be on a typical day. This is called modeling and it helps but, of course, atmospheric conditions are rarely exactly typical.

Another way to get a handle on these atmosphere-induced errors is to compare the relative speeds of two different signals. This "dual frequency" measurement is very sophisticated and is only possible with advanced receivers.

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