GPS Tracking System: Worldwide

by Fabian Toulouse

In the United States today, the GPS tracking system has become a staple for U.S. drivers, especially those employed in positions requiring an excessive amount of driving. Though GPS was made public by President Reagan after the destruction of Korean Airlines Flight 007, it has taken over twenty years to penetrate the culture of everyday life. Now, it seems impossible to think of this modern life without the pervasive GPS-enabled device, whether it be a phone, a driver aid, or even mapping services.

The GPS tracking system for the United States, officially called NAVSTAR-GPS, is the only Global Navigational Satellite System (GNSS) that is in optimal use. It was developed and maintained by the United States military, and uses a minimum of three satellites to triangulate position through a series of time and orbit reports. Though its use has been widespread among many industries for a long time, the recent surge in affordable hand-held technology has now made it so affordable it has become a standard feature for many cellular phones.

The Russian Federation has developed its own GPS system called GLONASS. This system is an alternate to the US version, and is considered to be complementary with GNSS. Begun in 1976, GLONASS uses 24 total satellites, with 21 required for processing any given the signal and three satellites used as spares. GLONASS uses two types of signals to calculate position, and can also measure the velocity of a traveling vehicle as well. As with the US version, GLONASS was originally developed to replace the aging Tsikada System, which used to take up to an hour to find a given position.

The Chinese tracking system is known simply as COMPASS. This is projected to include 35 satellites and span the entire globe. There will be two types of service: open (public) and restricted (military). Even though it is also known as Beidou-2, this system is not going to be anything like Beidou-1, China’s original GNSS. This GPS system is definitely one to watch in the coming years. Presently, it only has a limited scope of use.

In India there is a great deal of interest concerning the Indian Regional Navigational Satellite System (IRNSS). This system was created to address the grim realty that should a serious situation develop or a disaster occur, other GPS systems will not be available to serve the Indian subcontinent. This system was approved by the government in 2006 and is expected to be available in 2009. Unlike other systems that include an open component for public use, the IRNSS will be under limited government control.

The European Union’s (EU) GPS tracking system is simply referred to GALILEO. This system was unanimously approved in 2007 by all 27 member countries, with plans to be operational by 2013. There will be bases in both Italy and Germany, and unlike GPS, Galileo is created by the public and not the military, meaning that the military will not have the ability to block it from public use like other countries.

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