A global positioning system (GPS) device uses data from satellites to locate a specific point on the Earth in a process called trilateration. To trilaterate, a GPS receiver measures the distances to satellites using radio signals. Trilateration is similar to triangulation, which measures angles, depicted in this illustration.

Illustration by Tim Gunther, National Geographic

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GPS
GPS Encyclopedic Entry

Best For
6-12+

Subjects
Geography

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Encyclopedic entry. A global positioning system (GPS) is a network of satellites and receiving devices used to determine the location of something on Earth. Some GPS receivers are so accurate they can establish their location within 1 centimeter.