Flying can be a fun and fast way to get from one destination to another, but outdated navigation equipment and the high cost of fuel have halted aviation traffic for the past several years. Times are changing, however, and advances in satellite navigation are getting planes off the ground once again. Global positioning system technology is becoming more and more a crucial part of aviation as more uses are discovered to help increase efficiency and safety while at the same reducing time and cost.
Out with the Old
Flight routes in the past have been based on ground stations, also known as Navaids. Planes had to fly routes that kept them in range of the infrastructure on the ground, which proved inefficient and even dangerous when flying over terrain that did not allow for a radio signal on the ground, such as oceans, mountains, and deserts. For example, in the past, planes had to fly over the mountains of Alaska to reach the airport in Juneau. This meant low visibility due to cloud cover and dangerous updrafts and wind currents surrounding the mountain. Though many older aircraft not equipped with GPS tracking devices still need the ground station support, the trend is to get aviation modernized and outfitted with satellite navigational aids.
In with the New
GPS technology has proven effective for all aspects of a flight, including takeoff, flight, and landing by providing three-dimensional location date, real-time weather conditions, and vertical guidance, which is crucial when poor visibility is a factor. It allows for more efficient routes preferred by pilots from waypoint to waypoint without the need for ground station support. With greater advances in satellite navigation, more routes are being discovered all the time. And with better routes, there are greater savings in time, money, and fuel. Both military and civilian aviation programs have come to rely on the data gathered from this modern information system.
The precision offered by GPS navigation creates a less crowded and safer airspace. Air traffic controllers once had to maintain large distances between aircraft over open spaces with few ground stations because signals were lost or just not obtainable. Now, there is less confusion and more control both on the ground and in the air.