Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and Einstein are two things that seem so far apart from each other, that they could not possibly have anything in common.
But Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, created over 100 years ago actually plays a critical role in our everyday lives.
Effect On Time
Einstein’s Theory of Relativity refers to both special and general relativity. Special relativity is related to movement in space, meaning that satellites in space will lose 7 microseconds per day. This is in contrast to general relativity where gravity alters time, so clocks on satellites will run faster, adding 45 microseconds to each day.
Effect on Location
Because GPS units use time and distance to calculate positions for us here on earth, without corrections to the clocks on satellites being made, we could be given a position that is up to 11 kilometres away from our location.
So Einstein’s theory has in fact ensured us that the readings from any four of the 30 satellites that our GPS devices connect with at any time, will be 100% accurate with modifications to their clocks made to counter the Theory of Relativity.
GPS & Relativity Video
Surveying was one of the first commercial adaptations for GPS and surveyors utilise it for things like Static GPS Baseline, Real Time Kinematic (RTK) Observations and Continuously Operating Reference Stations (CORS). Learn more about GPS.
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