The Different Types of GNSS Receivers Available on the Market Today


The power of avionics technology has brought us to measuring distance in micrometers and pinpointing areas anywhere on the globe. With the latest in cutting-edge GNSS receivers, getting from point A to point B is the beginning.

To get to grips with this potent technology, you need to understand the latest types of GNSS receivers and what their strengths are. No two are the same, so finding the one that suits your needs is vital.

Let’s break down these GNSS receivers and see what makes them unique.

Breaking Down the Basics of GNSS Receivers

GNSS stands for Global Navigation Satellite Systems. These systems allow for locating exact points on the globe as well as relative time information of travel.

The satellites transmit pieces of data such as latitude and longitude. The GNSS receiver provides calculations on that data.

GPS modules are types of GNSS devices and use the same technology. The difference is the focus. The GPS systems have a narrow set of satellites to work from, being a subset of GNSS technology.

This lack of restriction for GNSS makes them far more accurate, though also far more complex.

The Types of GNSS Receivers on the Market

GNSS equipment expands into 3 different pieces, though depending on the exact model there can be some level of integration. The 3 pieces are the receivers, the antennas, and the supporting software.

The receivers make up the bulk of the device and have the highest variation depending on their ability to process the incoming data.

Differences in receivers often focus around such as performance, maintenance cost, expandability, and power consumption.

1. Multi-Constellation

The expansion of satellite navigation systems brought on the multi-constellation receivers. These receivers have a strong focus on compatibility. They take in signals and data from multiple sources to bring more exact calculations.

Each satellite constellation works with a set of communication parameters. There is a core set of communication that allows satellites to work together. Refining these parameters led to the development of multi-constellation receivers.

These receivers have a focus on mobility, able to take in a variety of constellations regardless of where the receiver is. They can work in any position restriction.

2. Multi-Frequency

Similar to the multi-constellation receivers, multi-frequency servers instead work from multiple frequencies from each satellite to refine accuracy.

Each GNSS signal has a dedicated frequency. The multi-frequency processing takes in a wide variety of signals, regardless of their frequency, and uses the influx of data to correct common errors in signals.

This kind of processing can come in a particular receiver or can find integration into other types of receivers.

3. Augmentation

Augmentation receiver types specialize in storing information to make continuous updates and corrections to incoming data. The stored data can come from nearby receivers, manual input, or calculating previous information.

These augmentation systems have a massive variety in scope. They also come with the highest level of maintenance, depending on how much manual input comes in.

4. Differential

The differential receiver types take the augmentation design and enhance it a step further. The differential systems use one or more reference stations to calculate ‘corrections” that can be transmitted to and then applied by a GNSS receiver for use in a local area of navigation. These corrections can then be used to calculate a more precise user position.

5. Assistance

The assistance system, or Assisted-GNSS (A-GNSS) of receivers takes in additional data to perform one of two aspects.

The first is improving acquisition speed. An assistance network of various servers and information relays makes this work.

To improve acquisition speed, an assistance network of various servers and information relays come into play.

The receivers take in the almanac and ephemeris data right to the receiver, skipping over slow initial processes. This means the initial search via the satellites can happen faster.

The second is improving processing and computation within the server. The receiver offloads the heavier to process data to the assistance system. The assistance system is more efficient at processing data, allowing the receiver to focus on taking in more data.

6. Software Receivers

Software receivers take the intake systems and processing power of a hardware receiver and place it in digital forms. They still use the physical antennas and front end systems.

Placing the processing into a digital format gives a number of benefits. The first is the wider variety of potential processors, as now any microprocessor could be a potential receiver.

The concept gives a much wider level of control and efficiency. You can use cloud technologies to store a much larger set of data. You can alter software aspects and upgrade the processing power with software patches.

The drawback comes from a heavier load on processing power. While you can use any microprocessor, you will need to reserve taking in this much data on anything but a high-end processing machine.

Testing the Receiver

Each of these types of receivers provides a specific type of benefit toward the standard GNSS system. Taking in information, processing, and calculating are the basics. The varieties here provide tweaks and improvements to this structure.

To get the most out of your receiver, you want a type that shores up the weaknesses of your other systems involved. To make sure this type benefits you the most, you need GNSS satellite simulators.

We here at CAST Navigation provide some of the highest-grade GNSS satellite simulators on the market today.

Getting the Best in Navigation

With a stronger understanding of the variations and complexities of today’s GNSS receivers, you can invest in your technology with confidence. Each of these receivers has its positives and negatives. Which one suits your needs?

When you are ready to take the right step and provide your navigation needs with the cutting edge Simulation Equipment it needs, we here at CAST Navigation are here to help. We have 40 years of experience in the GPS/GNSS industry, so contact us today and one of our specialists will be happy to talk with you.

April 30, 2020