Tuesday, September 27, 2011
U.S. Federal Innovation 2/365: The Global Positioning System
Many of us who have become reliant on the soothing voice of our automobile global positioning system (GPS) receivers have given up on paper maps. Devotees of geocaching use GPS receivers to find treasures hidden in the unlikeliest of locations. Hikers, bikers, sailers, airplane pilots, students, geographers, pet owners, parents, emergency responders, farmers, scientists, soldiers, and even Google are reliant on the mysterious force of GPS satellites powered by U.S. taxpayer dollars. Few of these users think through the physics, geometry, and engineering that allow them to find new restaurants, friend's homes, remote islands, lost pets, trickling springs in the wilderness, and gasoline stations, but the system works 24/7/365. Developed in the 1970s by the U.S. Department of Defense to solve problems encountered with previous navigational systems, the GPS has spawned new industries world wide and made life easier for the geographically challenged.