Print this page Print this page

GPS Surveying

Jan Van Sickle, P.L.S.

Course Overview

This course is intended to be useful to surveyors who venture into GPS surveying. I hope it is also helpful to engineers and others for whom GPS may not be a primary tool, but find themselves in need of some additional understanding of the technology.

The breadth of knowledge required for modern surveying is increasing all the time and today it almost certainly includes GPS. Surveyors have been there from the very beginning of the Global Positioning System, and that is getting to be more than twenty years ago. Today, the system developed by the Department of Defense with military applications in mind is attracting users from every imaginable discipline, but it is still surveyors out there pushing its limits.

Like most computerized equipment, the prices of GPS receivers are going down, just as their capabilities improve. With the full constellation of satellites in place, the convenience of using GPS has never been better. It has truly become a 24-hour worldwide system. And it can be applied to a wide range of real life every-day field work with good results. The potential of GPS has always been great, but potential is now reality.

Still, getting full advantage from GPS takes some doing. For example, it isn't hard to operate a GPS receiver, matter of fact most of them are so user friendly you don't need to know the first thing about GPS to make them work, that is, until they don't. Getting coordinates from a GPS receiver is usually a matter of pushing a few buttons, but knowing what those coordinates are, and more importantly, what they aren't, is more difficult.

Technology is changing so fast, sometimes it's hard to even know what questions to ask and, GPS can seem particularly complex. Books and seminars on the subject can be either too complicated or over-simplified. So this course has been written to find a middle ground. It is an introduction to the concepts needed to understand and use GPS, not a presentation of the latest research in the area. Some of the aspects of GPS surveying will be familiar, some won't. An effort has been made to explain the progression of the ideas at the foundation of GPS and get into some of the particulars too.

This course includes a multiple choice quiz at the end.


Course Content

This course consists of the following five course modules.

Course Modules

Module #1: The General Idea

Module #2: Errors

Module #3: Point Positioning

Module #4: The Design of NAVSTAR GPS

Module #5: A Few Ideas about Geodesy for GPS


The course content is in PDF format in each module. You need to open or download those documents to study this course.

Once you finish studying the above course content you need to take a quiz to obtain the PDH credits.

Take a Quiz

DISCLAIMER: The materials contained in the online course are not intended as a representation or warranty on the part of or any other person/organization named herein. The materials are for general information only. They are not a substitute for competent professional advice. Application of this information to a specific project should be reviewed by a registered professional engineer. Anyone making use of the information set forth herein does so at their own risk and assumes any and all resulting liability arising therefrom.