GPS Use in Airplane Technology: The Global Positioning System in Aircraft

GPS Use in Airplane Technology:  The Global Positioning System in Aircraft
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GPS or the Global Positioning System is designed to enable a person to find out the exact location of a particular landmark or person. The history of GPS in aviation dates back to the year 1978. During the initial phase, when the idea of GPS was being worked upon, a satellite was launched into space to assess this new technology. At present, this technology is being used all around the world to enhance the safety and efficiency of flight journeys. The precise, uninterrupted and global potential of GPS makes for seamless satellite navigation services, meeting many requirements of the aviation industry. Every phase of flight from departure to arrival is determined through three-dimensional positioning available from space-based status updates and navigation. The article explains GPS use in airplane technology.

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Though GPS was launched in late ‘70s, the system became fully functional in the mid 1990s with the help of 24 satellites. This new technology was readily accepted by the aviation industry and instantly put to use, after which, there has been no looking back. The need for accurate location positioning and speed paved the way for GPS in aviation, making it the first of its kind used on board. GPS in airplane engineering is essentially a route-map from the original location to the destination. All the required information is fed into the system making pilots understand the aircraft’s exact location and whereabouts while flying. The pilots use GPS to know about the altitude of aircraft, the distance until the destination, and other nitty-gritty details related to location. Since the inception of GPS, the entire industry depends on GPS for its ability to enable the airplane pilots to stay on-course. If in the case of a path deviation, the system directs the pilot to the right track.


Most aircraft use the Garmin aviation GPS specially designed for the industry. This is because not all GPS systems work in aviation, hence there a need for customized ones. One of the newer concepts is Area Navigation, which allows aircraft to fly user-preferred routes from one way point to another, where way points don’t depend on ground infrastructure. Newer procedures have been developed so that this system could be used for all phases of flight, particularly those that lack advanced navigation aids or surveillance equipment. Also, new and more efficient air routes are currently being expanded so they can be used with GPS. This saves both time and money. Often airplanes fly over areas like oceans which lack sufficient data. Here comes the role of GPS that allows more favorable and well-organized routes for flights, thereby saving time and fuel as well as raising the cargo revenue. For greater precision, satellite signals are augmented to allow for landing in minimal visibility conditions. All the GPS systems come with a headset, which is used for communication with the ground-based tower and also to protect the pilot’s hearing.


Like every new technology, GPS is being constantly worked upon to make it more efficient for modern times. One of the main components of the current civilian modernization is the addition of two new signals which complement the present civilian service. One of these signals is utilized for general use in non safety-critical applications, and the other will be internationally safeguarded for aviation navigational purposes. This will be a revolution of sort in the aviation industry making GPS a vigorous service suitable for even more applications. The second signal enables increased instrument approach all around the globe by using dual-frequency. Dual-frequency reduces the errors occurring in the signals caused by disturbances in the ionosphere through the simultaneous use of two signals. This increases the accuracy, accessibility, and veracity of GPS and negates the need for ground infrastructure investment.

GPS use in airplane technology has strengthened the foundation of air traffic management paving the way for on-time flights, reduced workload as well as operating costs for both airspace user and service provider. This system also forms the nucleus of other aviation systems like the Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System (EGPWS) that proved to be successful in controlling the risk of Controlled Flight into Terrain, a key reason of numerous aircraft accidents.