The main components of a GPS receiver are shown in Fig. 10. These are:

–         Antenna with pre-amplifier

–         RF section with signal identification and signal processing

–         Micro-processor for receiver control, data sampling and data processing

–         Precision oscillator

–         Power supply

–         User interface, command and display panel

–         Memory, data storage


Sensitive antenna of the GPS receiver detects the electromagnetic wave signal transmitted by GPS satellites and converts the wave energy to electric current] amplifies the signal strength and sends them to receiver electronics.

Several types of GPS antennas in use are mostly of following types (Fig.).

Mono pole Helix Spiral helix Microstrip Choke ring

Types of GPS Antenna

–         Mono pole or dipole

–         Quadrifilar helix (Volute)

–         Spiral helix

–         Microstrip (patch)

–         Choke ring

Microstrip antennas are most frequently used because of its added advantage for airborne application, materialization of GPS receiver and easy construction. However, for geodetic needs, antennas are designed to receive both carrier frequencies L1 and L2. Also they are protected against multipath by extra ground planes or by using choke rings. A choke ring consists of strips of conductor which are concentric with the vertical axis of the antenna and connected to the ground plate which in turns reduces the multipath effect.

RF Section with Signal Identification and Processing

The incoming GPS signals are down converted to a lower frequency in the RS section and processed within one or more channels. Receiver channel is the primary electronic unit of a GPS receiver. A receiver may have one or more channels. In the parallel channel concept each channel is continuouslymfranking one particular satellite. A minimum of four parallel channels is required to determine position and time. Modern receivers contain upto 12 channels for each frequency.

In the sequencing channel concept the channel switches from satellite to satellite at regular interval. A single channel receiver takes atleast four times of 30 seconds to establish first position fix, though some receiver types have a dedicated channel for reading the data signal. Now days in most of the cases fast sequencing channels with a switching rate of about one-second per satellite are used.

In multiplexing channel, sequencing at a very high speed between different satellites is achieved using one or both frequencies. The switching rate is synchronous with the navigation message of 50 bps or 20 milliseconds per bit. A complete sequence with four satellites is completed by 20 millisecond or after 40 millisecond for dual frequency receivers. The navigation message is continuous, hence first fix is achieved after about 30 seconds.

Though continuous tracking parallel channels are cheap and give good overall performance, GPS receivers based on multiplexing technology will soon be available at a cheaper price due to electronic boom.


` To control the operation of a GPS receiver, a microprocessor is essential for acquiring the signals, processing of the signal and the decoding of the broadcast message. Additional capabilities of computation of on-line position and velocity, conversion into a given local datum or the determination of waypoint information are also required. In future more and more user relevant software will be resident on miniaturized memory chips.

Precision Oscillator

A reference frequency in the receiver is generated by the precision oscillator. Normally, less expensive, low performance quartz oscillator is used in receivers since the precise clock information is obtained from the GPS satellites and the user clock error can be eliminated through double differencing technique when all participating receivers observe at exactly the same epoch. For navigation with two or three satellites only an external high precision oscillator is used.

Power Supply

First generation GPS receivers consumed very high power, but modern receivers are designed to consume as little energy as possible. Most receivers have an internal rechargeable. Nickel-Cadmium battery in addition to an external power input. Caution of low battery signal prompts the user to ensure adequate arrangement of power supply.

Memory Capacity

For port processing purposes all data have to be stored on internal or external memory devices. Post processing is essential for multi station techniques applicable to geodatic and surveying problems. GPS observation for pseudoranges, phase data, time and navigation message data have to be recorded. Based on sampling rate, it amount to about 1.5 Mbytes of data per hour for six satellites and 1 second data for dual frequency receivers. Modern receivers have internal memories of 5 Mbytes or more. Some receivers store the data on magnetic tape or on a floppy disk or hard-disk using external microcomputer connected through RS-232 port.

Most modern receivers have a keypad and a display for communication between the user and the receivers. The keypad is used to enter commands, external data like station number or antenna height or to select a menu operation. The display indicates computed coordinates, visible satellites, data quality indices and other suitable information. Current operation software packages are menu driven and very user friendly.