GPS SATELLITE NAVIGATION
With all those satellites floating above the earth, it is possible to use a GPS device to help you navigate. These work by searching for the nearest satellites and then measuring the time taken for a signal to travel between the two. From that, they can calculate your position.
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The system was developed by the US military to improve the accuracy of long-range missiles and other artillery. Initially, the accuracy of the system for hikers and other civilians was to within 10m (33ft), but this is improving all the time, which is of particular benefit to hikers following cliff paths when a sea mist has rolled in.
The US system of satellites is called Navstar, the Russians have Glonass, and not to be outdone, the European Union version is called Galileo.
In the early days of GPS, many sceptical hikers often teased those who used the devices – mainly because if a hiker walked through a dense canopy of trees, the device was no longer capable of finding the satellites it needed to calculate a location. Today, such receivers are far more sophisticated, and many smartphones now have built-in GPS receivers.
Bluffers using their smartphone GPS unit should always get out a paper map when encountering other hikers in order to show off their traditional map-reading skills. Remember to turn down the volume on your smartphone or the next instruction to ‘Turn right at the spitting llama’ will expose you.
Of course, all parties agree that a GPS device is only useful if the batteries aren’t flat.
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