What is Differential GPS? Explanation of the basic concept of improving the accuracy of satellite positioning

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What is Differential GPS?

GPS, which stands for Global Positioning System, is a navigation system that uses satellites to determine the position, velocity, and time synchronization of a receiver on or near the Earth’s surface. It has become an essential tool in various industries, including transportation, agriculture, and surveying.

However, the standard GPS system has limitations in its accuracy. This is where Differential GPS (DGPS) comes in. DGPS is a technique that improves the positioning accuracy of GPS by using a network of reference stations on the ground.

The Basic Concept of Differential GPS

The basic concept of DGPS involves comparing the position calculated by the GPS receiver with the known position of a reference receiver located at a known location. The reference receiver, also known as the base station, accurately measures its position using other accurate positioning techniques, such as survey-grade GPS or ground-based surveying methods.

The base station calculates the difference between its known position and the position calculated by the GPS receiver. This difference, called the differential correction, is then transmitted to the GPS receiver through a communication link, such as radio waves or the internet.

Improving GPS Accuracy

When the GPS receiver receives the differential correction, it applies it to its own position calculation. By factoring in the differential correction, the GPS receiver adjusts for the errors introduced by factors like atmospheric effects, clock discrepancies, and signal distortions.

The result is an improved position accuracy. DGPS can provide positioning accuracy in the sub-meter range, which is significantly better than the standard GPS accuracy of a few meters.

Benefits of Differential GPS

1. Increased Accuracy: Differential GPS improves the accuracy of GPS position measurements, making it suitable for applications that require higher precision, such as precision agriculture or geodetic surveying.

2. Real-Time Corrections: DGPS provides real-time corrections, allowing users to obtain accurate positioning information instantly, without the need for post-processing or additional data.

3. Availability: With the increasing number of reference stations worldwide, DGPS coverage is becoming more extensive, making it widely available in many regions.


Differential GPS is a technique that enhances the accuracy of GPS positioning by leveraging a network of ground-based reference stations. By comparing the position calculated by a GPS receiver with the known position of a reference receiver, differential corrections are applied to improve accuracy. This technology has proven to be invaluable in various fields where precise positioning is essential. With its increasing availability and accuracy, the applications of DGPS continue to expand, contributing to advancements in various industries.

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