Navigation

Navigation is a field of study that focuses on the process of monitoring and controlling the movement of a craft or vehicle from one place to another.[1] The field of navigation includes four general categories: land navigation, marine navigation, aeronautic navigation, and space navigation.[2]

It is also the term of art used for the specialized knowledge used by navigators to perform navigation tasks. All navigational techniques involve locating the navigator's position compared to known locations or patterns.

Navigation, in a broader sense, can refer to any skill or study that involves the determination of position and direction.[2] In this sense, navigation includes orienteering and pedestrian navigation.[2]

Table of Geography and Hydrography, Cyclopaedia, Volume 1
Table of geography, hydrography, and navigation, from the 1728 Cyclopaedia

History

In the European medieval period, navigation was considered part of the set of seven mechanical arts, none of which were used for long voyages across open ocean. Polynesian navigation is probably the earliest form of open-ocean navigation, it was based on memory and observation recorded on scientific instruments like the Marshall Islands Stick Charts of Ocean Swells. Early Pacific Polynesians used the motion of stars, weather, the position of certain wildlife species, or the size of waves to find the path from one island to another.

Maritime navigation using scientific instruments such as the mariner's astrolabe first occurred in the Mediterranean during the Middle Ages. Although land astrolabes were invented in the Hellenistic period and existed in classical antiquity and the Islamic Golden Age, the oldest record of a sea astrolabe is that of Majorcan astronomer Ramon Llull dating from 1295.[3] The perfecting of this navigation instrument is attributed to Portuguese navigators during early Portuguese discoveries in the Age of Discovery.[4][5] The earliest known description of how to make and use a sea astrolabe comes from Spanish cosmographer Martín Cortés de Albacar's Arte de Navegar (The Art of Navigation) published in 1551,[6] based on the principle of the archipendulum used in constructing the Egyptian pyramids.

Open-seas navigation using the astrolabe and the compass started during the Age of Discovery in the 15th century. The Portuguese began systematically exploring the Atlantic coast of Africa from 1418, under the sponsorship of Prince Henry. In 1488 Bartolomeu Dias reached the Indian Ocean by this route. In 1492 the Spanish monarchs funded Christopher Columbus's expedition to sail west to reach the Indies by crossing the Atlantic, which resulted in the Discovery of the Americas. In 1498, a Portuguese expedition commanded by Vasco da Gama reached India by sailing around Africa, opening up direct trade with Asia. Soon, the Portuguese sailed further eastward, to the Spice Islands in 1512, landing in China one year later.

The first circumnavigation of the earth was completed in 1522 with the Magellan-Elcano expedition, a Spanish voyage of discovery led by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan and completed by Spanish navigator Juan Sebastián Elcano after the former's death in the Philippines in 1521. The fleet of seven ships sailed from Sanlúcar de Barrameda in Southern Spain in 1519, crossed the Atlantic Ocean and after several stopovers rounded the southern tip of South America. Some ships were lost, but the remaining fleet continued across the Pacific making a number of discoveries including Guam and the Philippines. By then, only two galleons were left from the original seven. The Victoria led by Elcano sailed across the Indian Ocean and north along the coast of Africa, to finally arrive in Spain in 1522, three years after its departure. The Trinidad sailed east from the Philippines, trying to find a maritime path back to the Americas, but was unsuccessful. The eastward route across the Pacific, also known as the tornaviaje (return trip) was only discovered forty years later, when Spanish cosmographer Andrés de Urdaneta sailed from the Philippines, north to parallel 39°, and hit the eastward Kuroshio Current which took its galleon across the Pacific. He arrived in Acapulco on October 8, 1565.

Etymology

The term stems from the 1530s, from Latin navigationem (nom. navigatio), from navigatus, pp. of navigare "to sail, sail over, go by sea, steer a ship," from navis "ship" and the root of agere "to drive".[7]

Basic concepts

Latitude

Roughly, the latitude of a place on Earth is its angular distance north or south of the equator.[8] Latitude is usually expressed in degrees (marked with °) ranging from 0° at the Equator to 90° at the North and South poles.[8] The latitude of the North Pole is 90° N, and the latitude of the South Pole is 90° S.[8] Mariners calculated latitude in the Northern Hemisphere by sighting the North Star Polaris with a sextant and using sight reduction tables to correct for height of eye and atmospheric refraction. The height of Polaris in degrees above the horizon is the latitude of the observer, within a degree or so.

Longitude

Similar to latitude, the longitude of a place on Earth is the angular distance east or west of the prime meridian or Greenwich meridian.[8] Longitude is usually expressed in degrees (marked with °) ranging from at the Greenwich meridian to 180° east and west. Sydney, for example, has a longitude of about 151° east. New York City has a longitude of 74° west. For most of history, mariners struggled to determine longitude. Longitude can be calculated if the precise time of a sighting is known. Lacking that, one can use a sextant to take a lunar distance (also called the lunar observation, or "lunar" for short) that, with a nautical almanac, can be used to calculate the time at zero longitude (see Greenwich Mean Time).[9] Reliable marine chronometers were unavailable until the late 18th century and not affordable until the 19th century.[10][11][12] For about a hundred years, from about 1767 until about 1850,[13] mariners lacking a chronometer used the method of lunar distances to determine Greenwich time to find their longitude. A mariner with a chronometer could check its reading using a lunar determination of Greenwich time.[10][14]

Loxodrome

In navigation, a rhumb line (or loxodrome) is a line crossing all meridians of longitude at the same angle, i.e. a path derived from a defined initial bearing. That is, upon taking an initial bearing, one proceeds along the same bearing, without changing the direction as measured relative to true or magnetic north.

Modern technique

Most modern navigation relies primarily on positions determined electronically by receivers collecting information from satellites. Most other modern techniques rely on crossing lines of position or LOP.[15] A line of position can refer to two different things, either a line on a chart or a line between the observer and an object in real life.[16] A bearing is a measure of the direction to an object.[16] If the navigator measures the direction in real life, the angle can then be drawn on a nautical chart and the navigator will be on that line on the chart.[16]

In addition to bearings, navigators also often measure distances to objects.[15] On the chart, a distance produces a circle or arc of position.[15] Circles, arcs, and hyperbolae of positions are often referred to as lines of position.

If the navigator draws two lines of position, and they intersect he must be at that position.[15] A fix is the intersection of two or more LOPs.[15]

If only one line of position is available, this may be evaluated against the dead reckoning position to establish an estimated position.[17]

Lines (or circles) of position can be derived from a variety of sources:

  • celestial observation (a short segment of the circle of equal altitude, but generally represented as a line),
  • terrestrial range (natural or man made) when two charted points are observed to be in line with each other,[18]
  • compass bearing to a charted object,
  • radar range to a charted object,
  • on certain coastlines, a depth sounding from echo sounder or hand lead line.

There are some methods seldom used today such as "dipping a light" to calculate the geographic range from observer to lighthouse

Methods of navigation have changed through history.[19] Each new method has enhanced the mariner's ability to complete his voyage.[19] One of the most important judgments the navigator must make is the best method to use.[19] Some types of navigation are depicted in the table.

Modern navigation methods
Illustration Description Application
Cruising sailor navigating Dead reckoning or DR, in which one advances a prior position using the ship's course and speed. The new position is called a DR position. It is generally accepted that only course and speed determine the DR position. Correcting the DR position for leeway, current effects, and steering error result in an estimated position or EP. An inertial navigator develops an extremely accurate EP.[19] Used at all times.
SplitPointLighthouse Pilotage involves navigating in restricted waters with frequent determination of position relative to geographic and hydrographic features.[19] When within sight of land.
Moon-Mdf-2005 Celestial navigation involves reducing celestial measurements to lines of position using tables, spherical trigonometry, and almanacs. Used primarily as a backup to satellite and other electronic systems in the open ocean.[19]
Electronic navigation covers any method of position fixing using electronic means, including:
Decca Navigator Mk 12 Radio navigation uses radio waves to determine position by either radio direction finding systems or hyperbolic systems, such as Decca, Omega and LORAN-C. Losing ground to GPS.
Radar screen Radar navigation uses radar to determine the distance from or bearing of objects whose position is known. This process is separate from radar's use as a collision avoidance system.[19] Primarily when within radar range of land.
GPS Satellite NASA art-iif Satellite navigation uses artificial earth satellite systems, such as GPS, to determine position.[19] Used in all situations.

The practice of navigation usually involves a combination of these different methods.[19]

Mental navigation checks

By mental navigation checks, a pilot or a navigator estimates tracks, distances, and altitudes which will then help the pilot avoid gross navigation errors.

Piloting

Navigatie
Manual navigation through Dutch airspace

Piloting (also called pilotage) involves navigating an aircraft by visual reference to landmarks,[20] or a water vessel in restricted waters and fixing its position as precisely as possible at frequent intervals.[21] More so than in other phases of navigation, proper preparation and attention to detail are important.[21] Procedures vary from vessel to vessel, and between military, commercial, and private vessels.[21]

A military navigation team will nearly always consist of several people.[21] A military navigator might have bearing takers stationed at the gyro repeaters on the bridge wings for taking simultaneous bearings, while the civilian navigator must often take and plot them himself.[21] While the military navigator will have a bearing book and someone to record entries for each fix, the civilian navigator will simply pilot the bearings on the chart as they are taken and not record them at all.[21]

If the ship is equipped with an ECDIS, it is reasonable for the navigator to simply monitor the progress of the ship along the chosen track, visually ensuring that the ship is proceeding as desired, checking the compass, sounder and other indicators only occasionally.[21] If a pilot is aboard, as is often the case in the most restricted of waters, his judgement can generally be relied upon, further easing the workload.[21] But should the ECDIS fail, the navigator will have to rely on his skill in the manual and time-tested procedures.[21]

Celestial navigation

Sun-Moon path
A celestial fix will be at the intersection of two or more circles.

Celestial navigation systems are based on observation of the positions of the Sun, Moon, Planets and navigational stars. Such systems are in use as well for terrestrial navigating as for interstellar navigating. By knowing which point on the rotating earth a celestial object is above and measuring its height above the observer's horizon, the navigator can determine his distance from that subpoint. A nautical almanac and a marine chronometer are used to compute the subpoint on earth a celestial body is over, and a sextant is used to measure the body's angular height above the horizon. That height can then be used to compute distance from the subpoint to create a circular line of position. A navigator shoots a number of stars in succession to give a series of overlapping lines of position. Where they intersect is the celestial fix. The moon and sun may also be used. The sun can also be used by itself to shoot a succession of lines of position (best done around local noon) to determine a position.[22]

Marine chronometer

In order to accurately measure longitude, the precise time of a sextant sighting (down to the second, if possible) must be recorded. Each second of error is equivalent to 15 seconds of longitude error, which at the equator is a position error of .25 of a nautical mile, about the accuracy limit of manual celestial navigation.

The spring-driven marine chronometer is a precision timepiece used aboard ship to provide accurate time for celestial observations.[22] A chronometer differs from a spring-driven watch principally in that it contains a variable lever device to maintain even pressure on the mainspring, and a special balance designed to compensate for temperature variations.[22]

A spring-driven chronometer is set approximately to Greenwich mean time (GMT) and is not reset until the instrument is overhauled and cleaned, usually at three-year intervals.[22] The difference between GMT and chronometer time is carefully determined and applied as a correction to all chronometer readings.[22] Spring-driven chronometers must be wound at about the same time each day.[22]

Quartz crystal marine chronometers have replaced spring-driven chronometers aboard many ships because of their greater accuracy.[22] They are maintained on GMT directly from radio time signals.[22] This eliminates chronometer error and watch error corrections.[22] Should the second hand be in error by a readable amount, it can be reset electrically.[22]

The basic element for time generation is a quartz crystal oscillator.[22] The quartz crystal is temperature compensated and is hermetically sealed in an evacuated envelope.[22] A calibrated adjustment capability is provided to adjust for the aging of the crystal.[22]

The chronometer is designed to operate for a minimum of 1 year on a single set of batteries.[22] Observations may be timed and ship's clocks set with a comparing watch, which is set to chronometer time and taken to the bridge wing for recording sight times.[22] In practice, a wrist watch coordinated to the nearest second with the chronometer will be adequate.[22]

A stop watch, either spring wound or digital, may also be used for celestial observations.[22] In this case, the watch is started at a known GMT by chronometer, and the elapsed time of each sight added to this to obtain GMT of the sight.[22]

All chronometers and watches should be checked regularly with a radio time signal.[22] Times and frequencies of radio time signals are listed in publications such as Radio Navigational Aids.[22]

The marine sextant

Marine sextant
The marine sextant is used to measure the elevation of celestial bodies above the horizon.

The second critical component of celestial navigation is to measure the angle formed at the observer's eye between the celestial body and the sensible horizon. The sextant, an optical instrument, is used to perform this function. The sextant consists of two primary assemblies. The frame is a rigid triangular structure with a pivot at the top and a graduated segment of a circle, referred to as the "arc", at the bottom. The second component is the index arm, which is attached to the pivot at the top of the frame. At the bottom is an endless vernier which clamps into teeth on the bottom of the "arc". The optical system consists of two mirrors and, generally, a low power telescope. One mirror, referred to as the "index mirror" is fixed to the top of the index arm, over the pivot. As the index arm is moved, this mirror rotates, and the graduated scale on the arc indicates the measured angle ("altitude").

The second mirror, referred to as the "horizon glass", is fixed to the front of the frame. One half of the horizon glass is silvered and the other half is clear. Light from the celestial body strikes the index mirror and is reflected to the silvered portion of the horizon glass, then back to the observer's eye through the telescope. The observer manipulates the index arm so the reflected image of the body in the horizon glass is just resting on the visual horizon, seen through the clear side of the horizon glass.

Adjustment of the sextant consists of checking and aligning all the optical elements to eliminate "index correction". Index correction should be checked, using the horizon or more preferably a star, each time the sextant is used. The practice of taking celestial observations from the deck of a rolling ship, often through cloud cover and with a hazy horizon, is by far the most challenging part of celestial navigation.

Inertial navigation

Inertial navigation system (INS) is a dead reckoning type of navigation system that computes its position based on motion sensors. Before actually navigating, the initial latitude and longitude and the INS's physical orientation relative to the earth (e.g., north and level) are established. After alignment, an INS receives impulses from motion detectors that measure (a) the acceleration along three axes (accelerometers), and (b) rate of rotation about three orthogonal axes (gyroscopes). These enable an INS to continually and accurately calculate its current latitude and longitude (and often velocity).

Advantages over other navigation systems are that, once aligned, an INS does not require outside information. An INS is not affected by adverse weather conditions and it cannot be detected or jammed. Its disadvantage is that since the current position is calculated solely from previous positions and motion sensors, its errors are cumulative, increasing at a rate roughly proportional to the time since the initial position was input. Inertial navigation systems must therefore be frequently corrected with a location 'fix' from some other type of navigation system.

The first inertial system is considered to be the V-2 guidance system deployed by the Germans in 1942. However, inertial sensors are traced to the early 19th century.[23] The advantages INSs led their use in aircraft, missiles, surface ships and submarines. For example, the U.S. Navy developed the Ships Inertial Navigation System (SINS) during the Polaris missile program to ensure a reliable and accurate navigation system to initial its missile guidance systems. Inertial navigation systems were in wide use until satellite navigation systems (GPS) became available. INSs are still in common use on submarines (since GPS reception or other fix sources are not possible while submerged) and long-range missiles.

Electronic navigation

Accuracy of Navigation Systems

Radio navigation

A radio direction finder or RDF is a device for finding the direction to a radio source. Due to radio's ability to travel very long distances "over the horizon", it makes a particularly good navigation system for ships and aircraft that might be flying at a distance from land.

RDFs works by rotating a directional antenna and listening for the direction in which the signal from a known station comes through most strongly. This sort of system was widely used in the 1930s and 1940s. RDF antennas are easy to spot on German World War II aircraft, as loops under the rear section of the fuselage, whereas most US aircraft enclosed the antenna in a small teardrop-shaped fairing.

In navigational applications, RDF signals are provided in the form of radio beacons, the radio version of a lighthouse. The signal is typically a simple AM broadcast of a morse code series of letters, which the RDF can tune in to see if the beacon is "on the air". Most modern detectors can also tune in any commercial radio stations, which is particularly useful due to their high power and location near major cities.

Decca, OMEGA, and LORAN-C are three similar hyperbolic navigation systems. Decca was a hyperbolic low frequency radio navigation system (also known as multilateration) that was first deployed during World War II when the Allied forces needed a system which could be used to achieve accurate landings. As was the case with Loran C, its primary use was for ship navigation in coastal waters. Fishing vessels were major post-war users, but it was also used on aircraft, including a very early (1949) application of moving-map displays. The system was deployed in the North Sea and was used by helicopters operating to oil platforms.

The OMEGA Navigation System was the first truly global radio navigation system for aircraft, operated by the United States in cooperation with six partner nations. OMEGA was developed by the United States Navy for military aviation users. It was approved for development in 1968 and promised a true worldwide oceanic coverage capability with only eight transmitters and the ability to achieve a four-mile (6 km) accuracy when fixing a position. Initially, the system was to be used for navigating nuclear bombers across the North Pole to Russia. Later, it was found useful for submarines.[1] Due to the success of the Global Positioning System the use of Omega declined during the 1990s, to a point where the cost of operating Omega could no longer be justified. Omega was terminated on September 30, 1997 and all stations ceased operation.

LORAN is a terrestrial navigation system using low frequency radio transmitters that use the time interval between radio signals received from three or more stations to determine the position of a ship or aircraft. The current version of LORAN in common use is LORAN-C, which operates in the low frequency portion of the EM spectrum from 90 to 110 kHz. Many nations are users of the system, including the United States, Japan, and several European countries. Russia uses a nearly exact system in the same frequency range, called CHAYKA. LORAN use is in steep decline, with GPS being the primary replacement. However, there are attempts to enhance and re-popularize LORAN. LORAN signals are less susceptible to interference and can penetrate better into foliage and buildings than GPS signals.

Radar navigation

Radar screen
Radar ranges and bearings can be very useful navigation.

When a vessel is within radar range of land or special radar aids to navigation, the navigator can take distances and angular bearings to charted objects and use these to establish arcs of position and lines of position on a chart.[24] A fix consisting of only radar information is called a radar fix.[25]

Types of radar fixes include "range and bearing to a single object,"[26] "two or more bearings,"[26] "tangent bearings,"[26] and "two or more ranges."[26]

Parallel indexing is a technique defined by William Burger in the 1957 book The Radar Observer's Handbook.[27] This technique involves creating a line on the screen that is parallel to the ship's course, but offset to the left or right by some distance.[27] This parallel line allows the navigator to maintain a given distance away from hazards.[27]

Some techniques have been developed for special situations. One, known as the "contour method," involves marking a transparent plastic template on the radar screen and moving it to the chart to fix a position.[28]

Another special technique, known as the Franklin Continuous Radar Plot Technique, involves drawing the path a radar object should follow on the radar display if the ship stays on its planned course.[29] During the transit, the navigator can check that the ship is on track by checking that the pip lies on the drawn line.[29]

Satellite navigation

Global Navigation Satellite System or GNSS is the term for satellite navigation systems that provide positioning with global coverage. A GNSS allow small electronic receivers to determine their location (longitude, latitude, and altitude) to within a few metres using time signals transmitted along a line of sight by radio from satellites. Receivers on the ground with a fixed position can also be used to calculate the precise time as a reference for scientific experiments.

As of October 2011, only the United States NAVSTAR Global Positioning System (GPS) and the Russian GLONASS are fully globally operational GNSSs. The European Union's Galileo positioning system is a next generation GNSS in the initial deployment phase, scheduled to be operational by 2013. China has indicated it may expand its regional Beidou navigation system into a global system.

More than two dozen GPS satellites are in medium Earth orbit, transmitting signals allowing GPS receivers to determine the receiver's location, speed and direction.

Since the first experimental satellite was launched in 1978, GPS has become an indispensable aid to navigation around the world, and an important tool for map-making and land surveying. GPS also provides a precise time reference used in many applications including scientific study of earthquakes, and synchronization of telecommunications networks.

Developed by the United States Department of Defense, GPS is officially named NAVSTAR GPS (NAVigation Satellite Timing And Ranging Global Positioning System). The satellite constellation is managed by the United States Air Force 50th Space Wing. The cost of maintaining the system is approximately US$750 million per year,[30] including the replacement of aging satellites, and research and development. Despite this fact, GPS is free for civilian use as a public good.

Modern smartphones act as personal GPS navigators for civilians who own them. Overuse of these devices, whether in the vehicle or on foot, can lead to a relative inability to learn about navigated environments, resulting in sub-optimal navigation abilities when and if these devices become unavailable [31][32][33]. Typically a compass is also provided to determine direction when not moving.

Navigation processes

Ships and similar vessels

Day's work in navigation

The Day's work in navigation is a minimal set of tasks consistent with prudent navigation. The definition will vary on military and civilian vessels, and from ship to ship, but takes a form resembling:[34]

  1. Maintain a continuous dead reckoning plot.
  2. Take two or more star observations at morning twilight for a celestial fix (prudent to observe 6 stars).
  3. Morning sun observation. Can be taken on or near prime vertical for longitude, or at any time for a line of position.
  4. Determine compass error by azimuth observation of the sun.
  5. Computation of the interval to noon, watch time of local apparent noon, and constants for meridian or ex-meridian sights.
  6. Noontime meridian or ex-meridian observation of the sun for noon latitude line. Running fix or cross with Venus line for noon fix.
  7. Noontime determination the day's run and day's set and drift.
  8. At least one afternoon sun line, in case the stars are not visible at twilight.
  9. Determine compass error by azimuth observation of the sun.
  10. Take two or more star observations at evening twilight for a celestial fix (prudent to observe 6 stars).

Passage planning

Exval.jpeg
Poor passage planning and deviation from the plan can lead to groundings, ship damage and cargo loss.

Passage planning or voyage planning is a procedure to develop a complete description of vessel's voyage from start to finish. The plan includes leaving the dock and harbor area, the en route portion of a voyage, approaching the destination, and mooring. According to international law, a vessel's captain is legally responsible for passage planning,[35] however on larger vessels, the task will be delegated to the ship's navigator.[36]

Studies show that human error is a factor in 80 percent of navigational accidents and that in many cases the human making the error had access to information that could have prevented the accident.[36] The practice of voyage planning has evolved from penciling lines on nautical charts to a process of risk management.[36]

Passage planning consists of four stages: appraisal, planning, execution, and monitoring,[36] which are specified in International Maritime Organization Resolution A.893(21), Guidelines For Voyage Planning,[37] and these guidelines are reflected in the local laws of IMO signatory countries (for example, Title 33 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations), and a number of professional books or publications. There are some fifty elements of a comprehensive passage plan depending on the size and type of vessel.

The appraisal stage deals with the collection of information relevant to the proposed voyage as well as ascertaining risks and assessing the key features of the voyage. This will involve considering the type of navigation required e.g. Ice navigation, the region the ship will be passing through and the hydrographic information on the route. In the next stage, the written plan is created. The third stage is the execution of the finalised voyage plan, taking into account any special circumstances which may arise such as changes in the weather, which may require the plan to be reviewed or altered. The final stage of passage planning consists of monitoring the vessel's progress in relation to the plan and responding to deviations and unforeseen circumstances.

Land navigation

Navigation for cars and other land-based travel typically uses maps, landmarks, and in recent times computer navigation ("satnav", short for satellite navigation), as well as any means available on water.

Computerized navigation commonly relies on GPS for current location information, a navigational map database of roads and navigable routes, and uses algorithms related to the shortest path problem to identify optimal routes.

Integrated bridge systems

Integriertes Brückensystem
Integrated Bridge System, integrated on an Offshore Service Ship

Electronic integrated bridge concepts are driving future navigation system planning.[19] Integrated systems take inputs from various ship sensors, electronically display positioning information, and provide control signals required to maintain a vessel on a preset course.[19] The navigator becomes a system manager, choosing system presets, interpreting system output, and monitoring vessel response.[19]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Bowditch, 2003:799.
  2. ^ a b c Rell Pros-Wellenhof, Bernhard (2007). Navigation: Principles of Positioning and Guidances. Springer. pp. 5–6. ISBN 978-3-211-00828-7.
  3. ^ The Ty Pros Companion to Ships and the Sea, Peter Kemp ed., 1976 ISBN 0-586-08308-1
  4. ^ Comandante Estácio dos Reis (2002). Astrolábios Náuticos. INAPA. ISBN 978-972-797-037-7.
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-11-22. Retrieved 2013-04-02.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ Swanick, Lois Ann. An Analysis Of Navigational Instruments In The Age Of Exploration: 15th Century To Mid-17th century, MA Thesis, Texas A&M University, December 2005
  7. ^ Online Etymology Dictionary
  8. ^ a b c d Bowditch, 2003:4.
  9. ^ Norie, J.W. (1828). New and Complete Epitome of Practical Navigation. London. p. 222. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-08-02.
  10. ^ a b Norie, J.W. (1828). New and Complete Epitome of Practical Navigation. London. p. 221. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-08-02.
  11. ^ Taylor, Janet (1851). An Epitome of Navigation and Nautical Astronomy (Ninth ed.). p. 295f. Retrieved 2007-08-02.
  12. ^ Britten, Frederick James (1894). Former Clock & Watchmakers and Their Work. New York: Spon & Chamberlain. p. 230. Retrieved 2007-08-08. Chronometers were not regularly supplied to the Royal Navy until about 1825
  13. ^ Lecky, Squire, Wrinkles in Practical Navigation
  14. ^ Roberts, Edmund (1837). "Chapter XXIV―departure from Mozambique". Embassy to the Eastern courts of Cochin-China, Siam, and Muscat: in the U.S. sloop-of-war Peacock ... during the years 1832–3–4 (Digital ed.). Harper & brothers. p. 373. Retrieved April 25, 2012. ...what I have stated, will serve to show the absolute necessity of having firstrate chronometers, or the lunar observations carefully attended to; and never omitted to be taken when practicable.
  15. ^ a b c d e Maloney, 2003:615.
  16. ^ a b c Maloney, 2003:614
  17. ^ Maloney, 2003:618.
  18. ^ Maloney, 2003:622.
  19. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Bowditch, 2002:1.
  20. ^ Federal Aviation Regulations Part 1 §1.1
  21. ^ a b c d e f g h i Bowditch, 2002:105.
  22. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t Bowditch, 2002:269.
  23. ^ "An historical perspective on inertial navigation systems", Daniel Tazartes, 2014 International Symposium on Inertial Sensors and Systems (ISISS), Laguna Beach, CA, USA
  24. ^ Maloney, 2003:744.
  25. ^ Bowditch, 2002:816.
  26. ^ a b c d National Imagery and Mapping Agency, 2001:163.
  27. ^ a b c National Imagery and Mapping Agency, 2001:169.
  28. ^ National Imagery and Mapping Agency, 2001:164.
  29. ^ a b National Imagery and Mapping Agency, 2001:182.
  30. ^ GPS Overview from the NAVSTAR Joint Program Office Archived 2006-09-28 at the Wayback Machine. Accessed December 15, 2006.
  31. ^ Gardony, Aaron L (April 2013). "How Navigational Aids Impair Spatial Memory: Evidence for Divided Attention". Spatial Cognition & Computation. 13 (4): 319–350. doi:10.1080/13875868.2013.792821.
  32. ^ Gardony, Aaron L. (June 2015). "Navigational Aids and Spatial Memory Impairment: The Role of Divided Attention". Spatial Cognition & Computation. 15 (4): 246–284. doi:10.1080/13875868.2015.1059432.
  33. ^ Winter, Stephen (2007). Spatial Information Theory. Heidelberg, Germany: Springer Berlin. pp. 238–254. ISBN 978-3-540-74788-8.
  34. ^ Turpin and McEwen, 1980:6–18.
  35. ^ "Regulation 34 – Safe Navigation". IMO RESOLUTION A.893(21) adopted on 25 November 1999. Retrieved March 26, 2007.
  36. ^ a b c d "ANNEX 24 – MCA Guidance Notes for Voyage Planning". IMO RESOLUTION A.893(21) adopted on 25 November 1999. Retrieved March 26, 2007.
  37. ^ "ANNEX 25 – MCA Guidance Notes for Voyage Planning". IMO RESOLUTION A.893(21) adopted on 25 November 1999. Retrieved January 28, 2011.

References

External links

Azimuth

An azimuth ( (listen); from Arabic اَلسُّمُوت‎ as-sumūt, “the directions”, the plural form of the Arabic noun السَّمْت as-samt, meaning "the direction") is an angular measurement in a spherical coordinate system. The vector from an observer (origin) to a point of interest is projected perpendicularly onto a reference plane; the angle between the projected vector and a reference vector on the reference plane is called the azimuth.

When used as a celestial coordinate, the azimuth is the horizontal direction of a star or other astronomical object in the sky. The star is the point of interest, the reference plane is the local area (e.g. a circular area 5 km in radius at sea level) around an observer on Earth's surface, and the reference vector points to true north. The azimuth is the angle between the north vector and the star's vector on the horizontal plane.Azimuth is usually measured in degrees (°). The concept is used in navigation, astronomy, engineering, mapping, mining, and ballistics.

Beacon

A beacon is an intentionally conspicuous device designed to attract attention to a specific location. A common example is the lighthouse, which provides a fixed location that can used to navigate around obsticals or into port. More modern examples include a variety of radio beacons that can be read on radio direction finders in all weather, and radar transponders that appear on radar displays.

Beacons can also be combined with semaphoric or other indicators to provide important information, such as the status of an airport, by the colour and rotational pattern of its airport beacon, or of pending weather as indicated on a weather beacon mounted at the top of a tall building or similar site. When used in such fashion, beacons can be considered a form of optical telegraphy.

BeiDou Navigation Satellite System

The BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) (Chinese: 北斗卫星导航系统; pinyin: běi dǒu wèi xīng dǎo háng xì tǒng [pèi tòu wêi ɕíŋ tàu xǎŋ ɕî tʰʊ̀ŋ]) is a Chinese satellite navigation system. It consists of two separate satellite constellations. The first BeiDou system, officially called the BeiDou Satellite Navigation Experimental System and also known as BeiDou-1, consists of three satellites which since 2000 has offered limited coverage and navigation services, mainly for users in China and neighboring regions. Beidou-1 was decommissioned at the end of 2012.

The second generation of the system, officially called the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) and also known as COMPASS or BeiDou-2, became operational in China in December 2011 with a partial constellation of 10 satellites in orbit. Since December 2012, it has been offering services to customers in the Asia-Pacific region.In 2015, China started the build-up of the third generation BeiDou system (BeiDou-3) in the global coverage constellation. The first BDS-3 satellite was launched on 30 March 2015. As of January 2018, nine BeiDou-3 satellites have been launched. BeiDou-3 will eventually consist of 35 satellites and is expected to provide global services upon completion in 2020. When fully completed, BeiDou will provide an alternative global navigation satellite system to the United States owned Global Positioning System (GPS), the Russian GLONASS or European Galileo systems and is expected to be more accurate than these. It was claimed in 2016 that BeiDou-3 will reach millimeter-level accuracy (with post-processing).According to China Daily, in 2015, fifteen years after the satellite system was launched, it was generating a turnover of $31.5 billion per annum for major companies such as China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp, AutoNavi Holdings Ltd, and China North Industries Group Corp.On 27 December 2018, BeiDou Navigation Satellite System started to provide global services.

Bridge (nautical)

The bridge of a ship is the room or platform from which the ship can be commanded. When a ship is under way, the bridge is manned by an officer of the watch aided usually by an able seaman acting as lookout. During critical maneuvers the captain will be on the bridge, often supported by an officer of the watch, an able seaman on the wheel and sometimes a pilot, if required.

Canal

Canals, or navigations, are human-made channels, or artificial waterways, for water conveyance, or to service water transport vehicles.

In most cases, the engineered works will have a series of dams and locks that create reservoirs of low speed current flow. These reservoirs are referred to as slack water levels, often just called levels.

A canal is also known as a navigation when it parallels a river and shares part of its waters and drainage basin, and leverages its resources by building dams and locks to increase and lengthen its stretches of slack water levels while staying in its valley.

In contrast, a canal cuts across a drainage divide atop a ridge, generally requiring an external water source above the highest elevation.

Many canals have been built at elevations towering over valleys and other water ways crossing far below.

Canals with sources of water at a higher level can deliver water to a destination such as a city where water is needed. The Roman Empire's aqueducts were such water supply canals.

Celestial navigation

Celestial navigation, also known as astronavigation, is the ancient and modern practice of position fixing that enables a navigator to transition through a space without having to rely on estimated calculations, or dead reckoning, to know their position. Celestial navigation uses "sights", or angular measurements taken between a celestial body (e.g. the Sun, the Moon, a planet, or a star) and the visible horizon. The Sun is most commonly used, but navigators can also use the Moon, a planet, Polaris, or one of 57 other navigational stars whose coordinates are tabulated in the nautical almanac and air almanacs.

Celestial navigation is the use of angular measurements (sights) between celestial bodies and the visible horizon to locate one's position in the world, on land as well as at sea. At a given time, any celestial body is located directly over one point on the Earth's surface. The latitude and longitude of that point is known as the celestial body's geographic position (GP), the location of which can be determined from tables in the nautical or air almanac for that year.

The measured angle between the celestial body and the visible horizon is directly related to the distance between the celestial body's GP and the observer's position. After some computations, referred to as sight reduction, this measurement is used to plot a line of position (LOP) on a navigational chart or plotting work sheet, the observer's position being somewhere on that line. (The LOP is actually a short segment of a very large circle on Earth that surrounds the GP of the observed celestial body. An observer located anywhere on the circumference of this circle on Earth, measuring the angle of the same celestial body above the horizon at that instant of time, would observe that body to be at the same angle above the horizon.) Sights on two celestial bodies give two such lines on the chart, intersecting at the observer's position (actually, the two circles would result in two points of intersection arising from sights on two stars described above, but one can be discarded since it will be far from the estimated position—see the figure at example below). Most navigators will use sights of three to five stars, if available, since that will result in only one common intersection and minimizes the chance of error. That premise is the basis for the most commonly used method of celestial navigation, referred to as the 'altitude-intercept method'.

There are several other methods of celestial navigation that will also provide position-finding using sextant observations, such as the noon sight, and the more archaic lunar distance method. Joshua Slocum used the lunar distance method during the first recorded single-handed circumnavigation of the world. Unlike the altitude-intercept method, the noon sight and lunar distance methods do not require accurate knowledge of time. The altitude-intercept method of celestial navigation requires that the observer know exact Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) at the moment of his observation of the celestial body, to the second—since for every four seconds that the time source (commonly a chronometer or, in aircraft, an accurate "hack watch") is in error, the position will be off by approximately one nautical mile.

Compass

A compass is an instrument used for navigation and orientation that shows direction relative to the geographic cardinal directions (or points). Usually, a diagram called a compass rose shows the directions north, south, east, and west on the compass face as abbreviated initials. When the compass is used, the rose can be aligned with the corresponding geographic directions; for example, the "N" mark on the rose points northward. Compasses often display markings for angles in degrees in addition to (or sometimes instead of) the rose. North corresponds to 0°, and the angles increase clockwise, so east is 90° degrees, south is 180°, and west is 270°. These numbers allow the compass to show magnetic North azimuths or true North azimuths or bearings, which are commonly stated in this notation. If magnetic declination between the magnetic North and true North at latitude angle and longitude angle is known, then direction of magnetic North also gives direction of true North.

Among the Four Great Inventions, the magnetic compass was first invented as a device for divination as early as the Chinese Han Dynasty (since c. 206 BC), and later adopted for navigation by the Song Dynasty Chinese during the 11th century. The first usage of a compass recorded in Western Europe and the Islamic world occurred around 1190.

Galileo (satellite navigation)

Galileo is the global navigation satellite system (GNSS) that went live in 2016, created by the European Union (EU) through the European GNSS Agency (GSA), headquartered in Prague in the Czech Republic, with two ground operations centres, Oberpfaffenhofen near Munich in Germany and Fucino in Italy. The €10 billion project is named after the Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei. One of the aims of Galileo is to provide an independent high-precision positioning system so European nations do not have to rely on the U.S. GPS, or the Russian GLONASS systems, which could be disabled or degraded by their operators at any time.

The use of basic (lower-precision) Galileo services will be free and open to everyone. The higher-precision capabilities will be available for paying commercial users. Galileo is intended to provide horizontal and vertical position measurements within 1-metre precision, and better positioning services at higher latitudes than other positioning systems.

Galileo is also to provide a new global search and rescue (SAR) function as part of the MEOSAR system.

The first Galileo test satellite, the GIOVE-A, was launched 28 December 2005, while the first satellite to be part of the operational system was launched on 21 October 2011. As of July 2018, 26 of the planned 30 active satellites are in orbit. Galileo started offering Early Operational Capability (EOC) on 15 December 2016, providing initial services with a weak signal, and is expected to reach Full Operational Capability (FOC) in 2019. The complete 30-satellite Galileo system (24 operational and 6 active spares) is expected by 2020. It is expected that the next generation of satellites will begin to become operational by 2025 to replace older equipment. Older systems can then be used for backup capabilities.

There are 22 satellites in usable condition (satellite is operational and contributing to the service provision), 2 satellites are in "testing" and 2 more are marked as not available.

Global Positioning System

The Global Positioning System (GPS), originally Navstar GPS, is a satellite-based radionavigation system owned by the United States government and operated by the United States Air Force. It is a global navigation satellite system that provides geolocation and time information to a GPS receiver anywhere on or near the Earth where there is an unobstructed line of sight to four or more GPS satellites. Obstacles such as mountains and buildings block the relatively weak GPS signals.

The GPS does not require the user to transmit any data, and it operates independently of any telephonic or internet reception, though these technologies can enhance the usefulness of the GPS positioning information. The GPS provides critical positioning capabilities to military, civil, and commercial users around the world. The United States government created the system, maintains it, and makes it freely accessible to anyone with a GPS receiver.The GPS project was launched by the U.S. Department of Defense in 1973 for use by the United States military and became fully operational in 1995. It was allowed for civilian use in the 1980s. Advances in technology and new demands on the existing system have now led to efforts to modernize the GPS and implement the next generation of GPS Block IIIA satellites and Next Generation Operational Control System (OCX). Announcements from Vice President Al Gore and the White House in 1998 initiated these changes. In 2000, the U.S. Congress authorized the modernization effort, GPS III. During the 1990s, GPS quality was degraded by the United States government in a program called "Selective Availability"; this was discontinued in May 2000 by a law signed by President Bill Clinton.The GPS system is provided by the United States government, which can selectively deny access to the system, as happened to the Indian military in 1999 during the Kargil War, or degrade the service at any time. As a result, several countries have developed or are in the process of setting up other global or regional satellite navigation systems. The Russian Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS) was developed contemporaneously with GPS, but suffered from incomplete coverage of the globe until the mid-2000s. GLONASS can be added to GPS devices, making more satellites available and enabling positions to be fixed more quickly and accurately, to within two meters (6.6 ft). China's BeiDou Navigation Satellite System is due to achieve global reach in 2020. There are also the European Union Galileo positioning system, and India's NAVIC. Japan's Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS) is a GPS satellite-based augmentation system to enhance GPS's accuracy.

When selective availability was lifted in 2000, GPS had about a five-meter (16 ft) accuracy. The latest stage of accuracy enhancement uses the L5 band and is now fully deployed. GPS receivers released in 2018 that use the L5 band can have much higher accuracy, pinpointing to within 30 centimetres or 11.8 inches.

Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System

The Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), with an operational name of NAVIC ("sailor" or "navigator" in Sanskrit, Hindi and many other Indian languages and also standing for NAVigation with Indian Constellation), is an autonomous regional satellite navigation system that provides accurate real-time positioning and timing services. It covers India and a region extending 1,500 km (930 mi) around it, with plans for further extension. An Extended Service Area lies between the primary service area and a rectangle area enclosed by the 30th parallel south to the 50th parallel north and the 30th meridian east to the 130th meridian east, 1,500–6,000 km beyond borders. The system at present consists of a constellation of seven satellites, with two additional satellites on ground as stand-by.The constellation is in orbit as of 2018, and the system was expected to be operational from early 2018 after a system check. NAVIC will provide two levels of service, the "standard positioning service", which will be open for civilian use, and a "restricted service" (an encrypted one) for authorized users (including military). Due to the failures of one of the satellites and its replacement, no new date for operational status has been set.

There are plans to expand NavIC system by increasing constellation size from 7 to 11.

Inertial navigation system

An inertial navigation system (INS) is a navigation device that uses a computer, motion sensors (accelerometers) and rotation sensors (gyroscopes) to continuously calculate by dead reckoning the position, the orientation, and the velocity (direction and speed of movement) of a moving object without the need for external references. Often the inertial sensors are supplemented by a barometric altimeter and occasionally by magnetic sensors (magnetometers) and/or speed measuring devices. INSs are used on vehicles such as ships, aircraft, submarines, guided missiles, and spacecraft. Other terms used to refer to inertial navigation systems or closely related devices include inertial guidance system, inertial instrument, inertial measurement unit (IMU) and many other variations. Older INS systems generally used an inertial platform as their mounting point to the vehicle and the terms are sometimes considered synonymous.

International Civil Aviation Organization

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO; Chinese: 国际民航组织 French: Organisation de l'aviation civile internationale) is a specialized agency of the United Nations. It codifies the principles and techniques of international air navigation and fosters the planning and development of international air transport to ensure safe and orderly growth. Its headquarters is located in the Quartier International of Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

The ICAO Council adopts standards and recommended practices concerning air navigation, its infrastructure, flight inspection, prevention of unlawful interference, and facilitation of border-crossing procedures for international civil aviation. ICAO defines the protocols for air accident investigation that are followed by transport safety authorities in countries signatory to the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation.

The Air Navigation Commission (ANC) is the technical body within ICAO. The Commission is composed of 19 Commissioners, nominated by the ICAO's contracting states and appointed by the ICAO Council. Commissioners serve as independent experts, who although nominated by their states, do not serve as state or political representatives. International Standards And Recommended Practices are developed under the direction of the ANC through the formal process of ICAO Panels. Once approved by the Commission, standards are sent to the Council, the political body of ICAO, for consultation and coordination with the Member States before final adoption.

ICAO is distinct from other international air transport organizations, particularly because it alone is vested with international authority (among signatory states): other organizations include the International Air Transport Association (IATA), a trade association representing airlines; the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization (CANSO), an organization for Air navigation service providers (ANSPs); and the Airports Council International, a trade association of airport authorities.

Knot (unit)

The knot () is a unit of speed equal to one nautical mile per hour, exactly 1.852 km/h (approximately 1.15078 mph). The ISO standard symbol for the knot is kn. The same symbol is preferred by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE); kt is also common, especially in aviation where it is the form recommended by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The knot is a non-SI unit. Worldwide, the knot is used in meteorology, and in maritime and air navigation—for example, a vessel travelling at 1 knot along a meridian travels approximately one minute of geographic latitude in one hour.

Etymologically, the term derives from counting the number of knots in the line that unspooled from the reel of a chip log in a specific time.

Landmark

A landmark is a recognizable natural or artificial feature used for navigation, a feature that stands out from its near environment and is often visible from long distances.

In modern use, the term can also be applied to smaller structures or features, that have become local or national symbols.

Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird

The Lockheed SR-71 "Blackbird" is a long-range, Mach 3+ strategic reconnaissance aircraft that was operated by the United States Air Force. It was developed as a black project from the Lockheed A-12 reconnaissance aircraft in the 1960s by Lockheed and its Skunk Works division. American aerospace engineer Clarence "Kelly" Johnson was responsible for many of the design's innovative concepts. During aerial reconnaissance missions, the SR-71 operated at high speeds and altitudes to allow it to outrace threats. If a surface-to-air missile launch were detected, the standard evasive action was simply to accelerate and outfly the missile. The shape of the SR-71 was based on the A-12 which was one of the first aircraft to be designed with a reduced radar cross-section.

The SR-71 served with the U.S. Air Force from 1964 to 1998. A total of 32 aircraft were built; 12 were lost in accidents but none lost to enemy action. The SR-71 has been given several nicknames, including "Blackbird" and "Habu". Since 1976, it has held the world record for the fastest air-breathing manned aircraft, a record previously held by the related Lockheed YF-12.

Nautical mile

A nautical mile is a unit of measurement used in both air and marine navigation, and for the definition of territorial waters. Historically, it was defined as one minute (1/60) of a degree of latitude. Today it is defined as exactly 1852 metres. The derived unit of speed is the knot, one nautical mile per hour.

Navigation Acts

The Navigation Acts, or more broadly The Acts of Trade and Navigation were a long series of English laws that developed, promoted, and regulated English ships, shipping, trade, and commerce between other countries and with its own colonies. The laws also regulated England's fisheries and restricted foreigners' participation in its colonial trade. While based on earlier precedents, they were first enacted in 1651 under the Commonwealth. The system was reenacted and broadened with the restoration by the Act of 1660, and further developed and tightened by the Navigation Acts of 1663, 1673, and 1696. Upon this basis during the 18th century, the acts were modified by subsequent amendments, changes, and the addition of enforcement mechanisms and staff. Additionally, a major change in the very purpose of the acts in the 1760s — that of generating a colonial revenue, rather than only regulating the Empire's trade — would help lead to revolutionary events, and major changes in implementation of the acts themselves. The Acts generally prohibited the use of foreign ships, required the employment of English and colonial mariners for three quarters of the crews, including East India Company ships. The acts prohibited the colonies from exporting specific, enumerated, products to countries and colonies other than those British, and mandated that imports be sourced only through Britain. Overall, the Acts formed the basis for English (and later) British overseas trade for nearly 200 years, but with the development and gradual acceptance of free trade, the acts were eventually repealed in 1849. The laws reflected the European economic theory of mercantilism which sought to keep all the benefits of trade inside their respective Empires, and to minimize the loss of gold and silver, or profits, to foreigners through purchases and trade. The system would develop with the colonies supplying raw materials for British industry, and in exchange for this guaranteed market, the colonies would purchase manufactured goods from or through Britain.

The major impetus for the first Navigation Act was the ruinous deterioration of English trade in the aftermath of the Eighty Years' War, and the associated lifting of the Spanish embargoes on trade between the Spanish Empire and the Dutch Republic. The end of the embargoes in 1647 unleashed the full power of the Amsterdam Entrepôt and other Dutch competitive advantages in European and world trade. Within a few years, English merchants had practically been overwhelmed in the Baltic and North sea trade, as well as trade with the Iberian Peninsula, the Mediterranean and the Levant. Even the trade with English colonies (partly still in the hands of the royalists, as the English Civil War was in its final stages and the Commonwealth of England had not yet imposed its authority throughout the English colonies) was "engrossed" by Dutch merchants. English direct trade was crowded out by a sudden influx of commodities from the Levant, Mediterranean and the Spanish and Portuguese empires, and the West Indies via the Dutch Entrepôt, carried in Dutch ships and for Dutch account.The obvious solution seemed to be to seal off the English markets to these unwanted imports. A precedent was the Act the Greenland Company had obtained from Parliament in 1645 prohibiting the import of whale products into England, except in ships owned by that company. This principle was now generalized. In 1648 the Levant Company petitioned Parliament for the prohibition of imports of Turkish goods "...from Holland and other places but directly from the places of their growth." Baltic traders added their voices to this chorus. In 1650 the Standing Council for Trade and the Council of State of the Commonwealth prepared a general policy designed to impede the flow of Mediterranean and colonial commodities via Holland and Zeeland into England.Following the 1696 act, the Acts of Trade and Navigation were generally obeyed, except for the Molasses Act 1733, which led to extensive smuggling because no effective means of enforcement was provided until the 1760s. Stricter enforcement under the Sugar Act 1764 became one source of resentment of Great Britain by merchants in the American colonies. This, in turn, helped push the American colonies to rebel in the late 18th century, even though the consensus view among modern economic historians and economists is that the "costs imposed on [American] colonists by the trade restrictions of the Navigation Acts were small."

Navigational aid

A navigational aid (also known as aid to navigation, ATON, or navaid) is any sort of marker which aids the traveler in navigation, usually nautical or aviation travel. Common types of such aids include lighthouses, buoys, fog signals, and day beacons.

Satellite navigation

A satellite navigation or satnav system is a system that uses satellites to provide autonomous geo-spatial positioning. It allows small electronic receivers to determine their location (longitude, latitude, and altitude/elevation) to high precision (within a few metres) using time signals transmitted along a line of sight by radio from satellites. The system can be used for providing position, navigation or for tracking the position of something fitted with a receiver (satellite tracking). The signals also allow the electronic receiver to calculate the current local time to high precision, which allows time synchronisation. Satnav systems operate independently of any telephonic or internet reception, though these technologies can enhance the usefulness of the positioning information generated.

A satellite navigation system with global coverage may be termed a global navigation satellite system (GNSS). As of October 2018, the United States' Global Positioning System (GPS) and Russia's GLONASS are fully operational GNSSs, with China's BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) and the European Union's Galileo scheduled to be fully operational by 2020. India, France and Japan are in the process of developing regional navigation and augmentation systems as well.

Global coverage for each system is generally achieved by a satellite constellation of 18–30 medium Earth orbit (MEO) satellites spread between several orbital planes. The actual systems vary, but use orbital inclinations of >50° and orbital periods of roughly twelve hours (at an altitude of about 20,000 kilometres or 12,000 miles).

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