What is GPS, and how does navigation work?

Navigations and systems such as GPS are fundamental parts of ensuring an effective airport. After all, planes use GPS to get to the right location and broadcast where they are, and effective navigation means that aircraft plan the most efficient routes possible. Learn more about what GPS is, how navigation works and some of the systems and solutions in the navigation process at an airport.

What is GPS?
GPS stands for global positioning system and was initially a system that the United States military developed to increase the accuracy of its targeting systems. This meant more accurate positioning of aerial bombardments and artillery. In the years since, GPS has become an important tool for members of the general public, providing people with real-time tracking of their own location.

GPS works by sending signals into space, with three satellites or more returning the signal and triangulating the location of the device to a more specific location. The use of satellites makes this an accurate form of tracking in all environments, with devices such as cell towers being almost useless in remote environments such as forests and deserts. On the contrary, satellites have excellent access and visibility across the entire planet.

How does navigation work?
Navigation at an airport works in a unique manner, with different systems and solutions depending on the range and objectives of each system. These include:
Non Directional Beacon (NDB)

A non-directional beacon, or NDB, is a system that sounds out a message to a specific range away from the airport. Pilots use this information to understand where they are and to cross-reference between the satellite-based navigation systems that they use and the real world. The beacon is an ideal method of ensuring that you are where the map says you are, with beacons informing pilots of details such as the airport emitting the beacon and some of the conditions within the range of the beacon, assisting pilots that are landing.

TACAN (Tactical Air Navigation)
TACAN is a form of RADAR navigation system that uses high-frequency signals and their reflections to understand the distance and bearing of an aircraft from a ground station. With several ground stations in place, airports and other authorities have a higher chance of triangulating the specific location of the aircraft rather than a single idea of the distance and bearing. More stations mean higher precision and greater certainty of where aircraft are in the sky. This helps airports track traffic and plan for landings.

Visual Guidance Docking System (VDGS)
The Visual Guidance Docking System, or VDGS, is a system that supports planes in the final phases of their approach. Once a plane has completed its journey, it uses a series of lights and signs to carefully approach the terminal, docking without the risk of causing any damage to the airport itself or the plane. These lights provide pilots with guidance even in dark or foggy conditions, keeping passengers safe and reducing any potential for confusion on the pilot’s end.

If you have an interest in learning more about navigation systems and installing them in an airport, contact the Bayanat Engineering Qatar team today to find out more and visit our website at https://www.bayanatengineering.qa/.