What Is a GPS Antenna: Everything About GPS Antennas and How They Work

What is a GPS antenna? Today, there’s wide use of GPS antenna, from marine, cars, agriculture, to TVs and radios.

With its distinct structure and component assembling, the GPS antenna enhances navigation activities and helps you know the time at any part of the globe.

But how exactly does it work? Also, what is its structure and what role does it play in navigation?

Read on to learn the answers to these questions and more.   

Table of Contents

What Is GPS Antenna and How Does It Work

GPS antenna is an electronic radio frequency device that connects a GPS-enabled device with the GPS (Global Positioning System) satellites.

Also, it has a front-end interface and software systems. With these, it can receive and transmit specific radio frequency waves.

GPS satellites orbiting the earth

(Caption: GPS satellites orbiting the earth)

But how does a GPS antenna work? After it receives signals from GPS satellites orbiting the Earth, it converts the frequency into an electronic signal that the GPS receiver can use.

It does so by converting the electromagnetic wave energy of the signal. Then, the receiver uses the signal to calculate the location or time.

Now the information it displays is user-friendly. Usually, it’s the routing direction, positional data, or any other format.

Often, the antenna has a low noise amplifier to enhance its sensitivity to the waves’ frequency from the satellite.  

Why Do You Need a GPS Antenna?

Often, GPS navigation devices have an installation of internal antennas in them, and often, these are sufficient.

Sometimes, though, an internal antenna is not enough. In such cases, you need an external antenna. 

  • Obstructions: First is if there are obstructions such as trees, buildings or objects blocking the signal. 
  • Outdated GPS unit: Secondly, if your device is an older version that’s incompatible with the latest internal antennas. In such cases, you might not get an accurate signal. 
  • Interference issues: For one reason or another, you might find that you’re not getting a signal. Or it might be that you’re often getting inaccurate information. Whatever the case, an external antenna can solve the issue. 
  • Unpredictable signal: Another reason you might need a GPS antenna is when you’re traveling to an area where you might not always get a GPS signal. 

What Is the Function of Antenna in Navigation

Interestingly, antennas act as a link between a device and the GPS satellite.

Thus, you can integrate devices, such as cars and smartphones, with receivers that detect transmitted signals. 

So, the antenna enhances the GPS signal from the satellite to the device or receiver. 

GPS signal received on device

(Caption: GPS signal received on device)

GPS Antenna Structure

Usually, a GPS antenna comprises a right-rotating polarized ceramic and other components that include:

GPS ceramic antenna

(Caption: GPS ceramic antenna)

  • Amplifier: Now this is also known as LNA (low noise amplifier). And what this component does is amplify and filter the signal. Interestingly, it does so without distorting or degrading the signal-to-noise ratio (S/N ratio). 
  • Antenna ground plane: This is a conducting surface typically connected to electrical ground, which in this case is the transmitter’s ground wire. Its main purpose is to act as a plane to reflect the radio waves. Sometimes, instead of a surface, the ground plane comprises four radial conducting rods.
  • Antenna radome: Now this is a waterproof protective enclosure that protects the antenna. Typically, it’s made of rigid materials or air-inflated flexible fabrics, both of which are transparent to radio waves. That way, the antenna’s internal electronic components stay concealed from harsh weather and environmental damage. 
  • Antenna radiating element: This is the part of the antenna that reflects a specific radio frequency signal back and forth between the antenna and the satellite. Thus, it determines the antenna’s frequency range and extent of radiating signal.  

Types of GPS Antenna

Now you can now classify GPS antennas as internal or external and passive or active. Also, you can classify them according to their shape. Below is a review of each type: 

Passive and Active Antennas

Now passive antennas can pick up a signal and transmit it to the receiver without the need for amplification.

Thus, they cannot transmit weak signals or electromagnetic waves from a longer distance.

On the other hand, active antennas have active components that include an inbuilt amplifier.

Thus, they can receive a signal from a long distance and amplify it. As a result, the signal it receives is much stronger for better reception. 

Internal and External Antennas

You can install internal antennas inside navigational devices like smartphones and cars.

In contrast to internal antennas, external devices are outside of the device.

Usually, external antennas come in handy when traveling to areas with unpredictable or unstable signals. 

Reradiating Antenna

Typically, this is a paired antenna system. In this case, you install one of the antennas near a GPS receiver, and the other in an area that has a strong signal.

Then, link the two antennas to each other via an extension cable.

An excellent example of a reradiating antenna is the one mounted on the outer part of a car.

Such an antenna then links to the receiver within the vehicle allowing a clear and stronger signal. 

Aperture Antennas

As the name might suggest, these are simply antennas that have an aperture at the end.

Through this opening, the antenna receives and transmits electromagnetic waves.

And the bigger the aperture is, the more the gain. 

Yagi-uda Antennas

Now these are directional antennas that receive signals from one specific direction.

Usually, you’ll see this type of antenna used with radios and televisions at home. 

Wire Antenna

These are simple antennas with a long wire that connects to the receiver or transmitter using an antenna tuner.

With such a simple installation, it’s no wonder many people opt for this type of antenna as it’s convenient. 

Reflector Antenna

Typically, this type of antenna uses a reflective surface to receive and transmit a signal. And it can be in the form of a corner or a parabolic reflector. 

Turnstile Antenna

This antenna, it consists of a pair of dipoles fixed perpendicularly to each other. 

With such a structure, this antenna creates a high gain signal strength. 

GPS Antenna Application

As you can expect, GPS antennas have several applications. And here are a few examples:

  • Agriculture: In order to maximize their field irrigation and fertilizer application process, farmers employ GPS antennas. In fact, it reduces the cost of production. 
  • Transportation and logistics: With transportation GPS-enabled systems providing the shortest routes, it reduces fuel consumption and saves time.
  • Marine: Interestingly, GPS has enhanced marine operations such as search and rescue missions. That’s because it helps the marine crews to accurately navigate and determine the precise location at any time. 
  • Aviation: With GPS-equipped aircraft, it’s possible to relay the aircraft’s position though real-time digital data links via satellite controllers. And this real-time position enables the optimization of the craft’s fuel consumption and flight routes. Also, it enhances the safety of everyone on board. 


What Are GPS Reception Interferences?

So these are interferences in the GPS signal. 

These interferences block the signal. As a result, the details about a location will be inconsistent or inadequate.  

What Is GPS Signal Used For?

A GPS signal helps determine the location of a person or object. 

What happens is that the GPS device receives a signal and then converts it into data the user can understand, such as coordinates.


So there’s your answer to the question, “What is a GPS antenna?”.

Now you know all there is to know about GPS antennas, including their function, structure, different types, and applications.

Without a doubt, GPS antennas have made it easy to navigate and determine location and time. 

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