NSS Applications

Although the initial objective of the first GNSS systems (which is called the GPS System) was military, the ubiquitous availability of GNSS signals and the availability of cheap GNSS receivers have rendered the GNSS technology widely used in civil, industrial and military areas. GNSS dependency and the number of applications that utilize position, velocity and time information produced by GNSS receivers is increasing rapidly all around the World.

Use of GNSS Systems range from location based services to daily life applications, from surveying and mapping to providing a time reference with plethora of GNSS based solutions to many problems, hence, it is impossible to mention all of the specific GNSS applications

Location Based Services

As the name suggests, Location Based Services (LBS) provide a service and/or information that is relevant to the user at that location. LBS use devices with a GNSS receiver (usually mobile devices) with positioning ability to provide the service and/or information to the user. The most common location based service is streaming information that is deemed useful to the user at that particular location. The streamed information may range from tourism related guidance and landmark information to traffic jams or shopping/eating advice in the area. The information stream can happen upon demand of just pushed without any explicit request depending on the application.

The availability of cheap consumer GNSS receivers and GNSS enabled mobile devices have made GNSS suitable for gaming as well. The oldest and still the most popular GNSS game is Geocaching that combines treasure hunt with trekking and outdoor activities.

Cheaper private transport-on-demand services like Uber also use GNSS systems to match the customer to the nearest available customer.

Civil Applications

The availability of low-cost GNSS chipsets allowed for integration of GNSS in a wide range of tools and products commonly used in daily life. As a consequence, the use of GNSS capabilities has steadily spread into professional activities as well as the activities for personal leisure and entertainment purposes.

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Given the easy availability of GNSS positioning in all kinds of consumer products, the use of GNSS positioning for personal applications has become usual and new uses for the technology are constantly appearing. Some of these uses bring comfort to the user and can save the user time while others are just to facilitate social interactions. The fact that the technology is mature,  available, free to use and take away the most of the complication in life, variety and the number of personal applications will continue to rise.

Personal navigation applications provide the easiest way to getting around both in urban areas and in the nature. Location-enabled social networking allows users to post their current location and/or check into places or venues. GNSS positioning makes possible posting georeferenced photos with the location of the photographer embedded in the files. Even location based services can be considered a part of personal applications.

GNSS applications for the road segment probably make up almost 50% of all GNSS applications. GNSS receivers are now commonly installed in new cars as a key tool for providing new services such as route planning, real-time traffic information and fleet management.

Route planning using GNSS navigation is already a well-established area. GNSS systems, either integrated in the car or separate standalone device, are used to provide quickest, shortest or with least fuel consumption route suggestions based on the user selection.

Traditional road tolling with hefty infrastructure investment costs are steadily being replaced by applications using positioning GNSS systems.  Road tolling using GNSS means that the position and trajectory of a vehicle is determined using GNSS in order to decide if the vehicle must be charged,

The use of GNSS for emergency services and incident management can make the response to emergency situations much faster and efficient in saving lives. The application allow the precise location obtained by the GNSS be sent to rescue authorities for a quick reaction.

With the increasing number of cars equipped with GNSS receivers and people turning on buetooth on their mobile devices along and allowing their GNSS determined position/speed information through the appropriate application the monitoring and management of road traffic is significantly facilitated.

GNSS-based fleet management is used to locate vehicles (trucks, buses, police cars, taxis) in order to optimize resource management, reduce travel time, increase security and reduce fuel consumption. GNSS is used for the tracking of goods, vehicle scheduling, control and prompt delivery.

GNSS overcomes many of the inadequacies in today’s air traffic infrastructure thanks to its accurate, continuous, all-weather positioning capability. As in the ground case, GNSS is the most trusted tool for positioning in aeronautical applications. GNSS provides a supplementary positioning service for many flight phases as well as when planning aircraft routes and landing schedules. Especially at busy airports, GNSS ensures that airplanes are always a safe distance from each other with sufficient accuracy to allow airlines and pilots to know their position reliably and precisely.

During en-route flight, the availability of GNSS guarantees high robustness through the redundancy and high reliability of the service so that aircraft separation is not a safety issue even in congested airspace.

Approach, landing and take-off are critical flight phases and the need for operating in all weather conditions renders position precision is a mandatory requirement. The GNSS, with the aid of ground-based augmentation reliably satisfies the needs for precision approach.

Attitude Determination is one of the many applications where GNSS is effectively employed in aviation applications. The attitude of an aircraft, is accurately determined by measuring the relative positions of multiple GNSS antennas mounted on different positions of the aircraft.

In air traffic control, position, heading, speed and time information is crucial for the continuous management of all aircraft. Transmission of GNSS navigation data by the individual aircraft ensures safer air traffic monitoring, especially in the areas the appropriate ground infrastructure is not present or insufficient for heavy traffic.

Rail systems are one of the new application areas for GNSS where it helps track the movement of locomotives, rail cars, maintenance vehicles, and wayside equipment in real time. When combined with other sensors, computers and communications systems, GNSS improves rail safety, security, and operational effectiveness. The technology helps reduce accidents, delays and operating costs while increasing track capacity, customer satisfaction and cost effectiveness.

GNSS technology is fundamental for bringing innovation and progress in maritime navigation fishing, oceanography and oil and gas exploitation. In maritime applications, GNSS is used mainly in maritime en route navigation. Also, Automatic Identification System (AIS) that is simply a transponder transmitting real time information of the vessel relies on GNSS as primary positioning source.

In todays Worls, industry uses heavy machinery for many purposes and GNSS is the best tool to guide these machines precisely to perform their work, especially while working in dangerous areas or doing repetitive work. GNSS applications introduce great benefits in agriculture, mining and logistics as well as construction or offshore oil platforms.

Precision farming is refered as the use of GNSS to coordinate crops, soils and various agriculture mappings together with monitoring and subsequent analysis of data for optimum field application of chemicals and fertilizer. GNSS is also used for autonomous steering of farming machinery.


GNSS help the fishing industry in the areas ranging from day-to-day operational support to the navigation and positioning of fishing vessels. Strict international rules governing intrusion into national waters demand that vessels are monitored to to make sure they work only in designated areas.

GNSS are used in Package and Container Tracking applications to improve efficiency and control the distribution chain of products and shippings. Asset tracking systems are used for tracking of cargo in trucks, ships or trains allowing a better management of the cargo.

GNSS have increased productivity significantly and improved on-site safety in mining activities. In open pit mining, accurate GNSS is useful for tasks such as machine guidance, grading, dozing, drilling, collision avoidance, surveying, and fleet management.

  • Surveying, Mapping and GIS

One of the most obvious uses for GNSS systems is the realization of surveys and production of maps. The use of GNSS techniques in geodesy have revolutionized the way geodetic measurements are made.

Land Surveying is a technique and science of accurately measuring the distances and angles between different points, on the surface of Earth. GNSS has been used by land surveyors since the late 1980s, primarily for geodetic control networks and for photo control.

Mapping and GIS applications allow to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage, and present all types of geographically referenced data. Although Mapping and GIS applications do not rely on GNSS as sole means for data capture, the widespread of the GNSS technologies has allowed for low-cost data acquisition processes that made GIS technologies to be more generally used.

Aerial Survey is a form of collection of geographical information using airborne vehicles. For the information collected to be useful this information needs to be georeferenced. The georeferencing of information is usually done using GNSS with similar techniques as the techniques used for dynamic land surveying

Military Applications

Given that GNSS was originally developed for military purposes, almost all applications discussed in the civil applications section are also valid for the military as well. The military forces rely on GNSS over conventional compasses, in order to obtain an accurate positioning of their own units, as well as the enemy's forces positions and the locations of enemy's facilities or installations. These positions coordinates can be acquired and distributed to other units in order to enhance the ground awareness picture.

GNSS navigation is used by military forces for ground navigation, aviation navigation and maritime navigation. With GNSS’ ubiquitous presence in military actions, GNSS navigation is also used to plan and track the movements of convoys and in operations of search and rescue of injured soldiers.

Nowadays, the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) have a prominent importance in military actions. The UAVs used in military application have a GNSS receiver installed, along with the cameras installed in vehicle, allowing pilots to operate the vehicle remotely. The GNSS tracking systems are very effective in guiding the high-altitude UAVs controller in areas where the installed cameras fail, due to clouds or lower vision. The GNSS receivers can also be useful for Attitude Determination in UAVs.

GNSS has also become very important for military target acquisition operations, reconnaissance, and weapon guidance systems. Conventional weapon systems such as smart bombs and guided missiles use the acquired tracking information, enhanced by GNSS receiver’s information and other guidance systems.

Autonomous Applications

Autonomous vehicle technology is a multi-disciplinary technology where navigation plays a pivotal role and since position information is essential in navigation, stay at the core for providing navigation capabilities to autonomous vehicles. Precise positioning capability allows GNSS tobe used for lane or track determination (for road and rail vehicles) and attitude determination using multiple antennas.

In autonomous driving, GNSS is used for navigation by determining the vehicle’s location and speed. A driverless vehicle requires the combination of several techniques among which GNSS is the most important one. These techniques will make it possible to guide a vehicle autonomously from one point to another using available roads and determine the best possible route using digital maps.


Advanced Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) perform many tasks ranging from security (border patrol, anti-drug warfare, chemical, biological and radiological detection, maritime vessel identification) to surveillance of infrastructures (pipelines, power lines, railways, waterways, roads, airports), from search and rescue, to mapping, fisheries, agriculture, forestry, natural resource monitoring, fire fighting and emergency management, airborne communication collection and relay, weather data collection, environmental monitoring, pollution detection and many more. Similar to autonomous driving, autonomous flying also require precise position information and GNSS is the best source for this application as well. GNSS utilization in UAVs enables many capabilities such as navigation, attitude determination and georeferencing.

Other Applications

The main objective of GNSS systems is to provide positioning but by design other information is available or can be derived from the measurements gathered by GNSS receivers. This has led to less conventional uses of the technology in application areas that were not initially envisioned.

By design GNSS systems deliver precise time along with the position and velocity of the user. This allows GNSS receivers to act as a worldwide synchronized time source with a precision that could only be maintained during long periods by expensive equipments. This capability has been used to provide a precise time reference in different areas such as financial transactions and stock markets and the applications range from network synchronization and optimization to encryption and digital signature of electronic data.

One other example of a less conventional use of GNSS technology is the use of the measured interference of the atmosphere on the GNSS signals to do atmospheric sensing.