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GNSS vs GPS: What’s the Difference?

GPS and GNSS are often used interchangeably. Knowing the differences between the two can help you know the terms behind the navigation systems you are using every day.

Many companies, including large ones like Tesla, use both GPS and GNSS systems in their various vehicles and products.

Knowing the differences between GPS and GNSS can be the difference between getting lost or arriving at your destination. Read on to learn more about GNSS vs GPS.

What is GNSS?

GNSS, or Global Navigation Satellite System uses multiple satellites in a single system. They provide positioning, navigation and timing services worldwide.

This system is an example of a “constellation” of satellites. Each carries atomic clock timing information used to triangulate an individual’s exact geographic position. This comes along with the speed and direction of movement.

Check these GNSS simulators to get a better understanding of the difference between GNSS and GPS. You can also see which simulator is best suited for your application.

What is GPS?

GPS (Global Positioning System) is a satellite-directed system that can be used to pinpoint your exact location. GPS uses specialized receivers and satellites to calculate your exact location without any human interference. It measures the following:

  • exact longitude
  • latitude
  • altitude
  • speed
  • direction of travel

GPS is a subset of GNSS and its main purpose is to pinpoint location accurately and cost effectively.

Differences in Coverage

GNSS and GPS are both navigation systems that use satellites to determine a user’s position. However, they differ in terms of coverage. GPS is operated solely by the US government. It is limited to providing positioning, navigation and timing services to US military and civilian users.

GNSS incorporates several satellite-based navigation systems allowing for wider coverage and improved accuracy, such as:

  • GPS
  • Galileo

GNSS provides better coverage and more reliable performance, during activities such as deep-sea navigation, aircraft navigation, and agriculture area mapping, particularly in areas with limited access to GPS signals.

It is also used for detecting resources and identifying objects and has extended outdoor accuracy to around five times that of GPS. GPS coverage is still sufficient for most uses, however, GNSS offers enhanced coverage that can prove invaluable in certain situations.

Differences in Global Reach

GNSS and GPS are both global navigation satellite systems, but there are some differences between them. GNSS has a wider global reach than GPS alone, as it includes satellites from various countries such as:

  • Russia
  • Europe
  • India
  • Japan

Additionally, GNSS receivers have better accuracy and reliability, allowing for a variety of applications in a range of industries, including the maritime and aviation industry.

With a larger satellite network, GNSS is less prone to signal outages and interference due to various weather conditions. Furthermore, GNSS can provide more positioning services, such as altitude and velocity measurements, which GPS alone cannot provide.

Ultimately, GNSS has a greater global reach than GPS and can provide an array of services that GPS is unable to offer.

Differences in Cost

GPS and GNSS systems each provide navigation and location-based services, but there are significant differences in cost. GPS is relatively cheap compared to other satellite-based positioning systems but falls short in its accuracy compared to GNSS.

GNSS systems are more expensive than traditional GPS systems due to their higher precision. GNSS systems are typically used in more costly applications due to their higher accuracy and precision, such as:

  • military GPS
  • aircraft navigation
  • automotive navigation systems

They may require an additional receiver or antennas in order to attain this level of accuracy. Whereas GPS is a standalone system, GNSS requires coordination from multiple satellite systems which further increases its price.

Despite the additional cost, GNSS provides a higher level of accuracy over large distances for applications that require precise positioning to function.

Differences in Accuracy

Differences in accuracy between GNSS and GPS depend on the constellation used, the accuracy of the embedded receivers, and signal interference from obstacles like tall buildings or trees.

Generally speaking, GNSS systems tend to offer greater accuracy than GPS, primarily due to the larger number of satellites available.

For example, Galileo and BeiDou both offer better accuracy than GPS in some cases, although accuracy can vary depending on the particular configuration.

Indeed, the key distinction between GNSS and GPS is the size and diversity of the constellation rather than any specific difference in accuracy.

Application Considerations Between GNSS and GPS

The difference between GNSS and GPS lies mainly in their applications. Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) is a space-based navigation system that utilizes a constellation of satellites, such as:

  • GPS
  • Galileo
  • Compass

These provide global positioning, navigation, and timing services. It enables all aircraft, ships, and land-based users to accurately determine their position and time in real-time.

On the other hand, the Global Positioning System (GPS) is mainly a satellite navigation system that relies solely on satellites orbiting the Earth. GPS is used primarily for navigation and location tracking on Earth and is limited to line-of-sight applications.

GNSS can be used in the following ways:

  • automotive
  • land surveying
  • mapping
  • military
  • time synchronization applications

GPS, on the other hand, is mainly used in:

  • aviation
  • automotive
  • personal navigation
  • surveying

Thus, GNSS should be the preferred choice for more complex applications, such as autonomous driving and precision farming, while GPS is suited for basic automotive and navigation applications.

Learn All About GNSS and GPS

In essence, GNSS and GPS are two distinct yet interrelated systems. While GPS mainly enables positioning and navigation, GNSS adds sophisticated functionality, such as weather and map support.

To get the most out of navigation technology, incorporating both GNSS and GPS may be beneficial. Discover more advantages to GNSS and GPS today!

Did you find this article helpful? Check out the rest of our blog.

Daniel Robert
Daniel Robert
Daniel Robert is a multi-talented author at thetechdiary.com, particularly interested in business, marketing, gaming, entertainment, technology and more. His diverse background and love for learning have allowed him to write on various topics. With a unique ability to craft engaging and informative content, Daniel has become a well-respected voice in online publishing.


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