What Is GPS L5, and How Does It Enhance GPS Accuracy?


Man wearing a backpack and using a smartphone on top of a mountain.

For years, consumer-grade units used single-frequency GPS receivers to find out their location. However that’s altering as newer devices have began including help for a second GPS frequency known as L5. Right here’s every part you have to know.

The GPS Sign

Though initially designed for the USA navy, the International Positioning System or GPS now performs a significant position in our lives. From turn-by-turn navigation to sharing our location for grocery supply, we use GPS every day. However for the longest time, your smartphone, in-car navigation, or smartwatch would use a legacy frequency known as L1 to get the GPS sign and decide its location.

L1 is extensively used, and it has helped remodel the world in a giant means. However this frequency is prone to multipath errors, that are brought on when some GPS indicators are mirrored by buildings, the bottom, and different objects earlier than reaching the receiver. Figuring out areas in GPS is predicated on measuring distances to the satellites, so these reflections trigger an issue, exhibiting a distinct distance than a sign that reaches the receiver immediately from the satellite tv for pc. The L1 indicators are additionally not very efficient at touring by way of bodily obstructions.

So, the US authorities has been operating a GPS modernization program to maintain up with the altering occasions and advancing know-how. As part of this modernization effort, it’s fielding three new GPS indicators for civilian use: L2, L5, and L1C.

L1C remains to be in a developmental stage and doesn’t present navigation knowledge, however the L2 and L5 indicators are in numerous pre-operational phases, with extra satellites transmitting the L2 sign than the L5 as of June 2022. The US authorities goals to reinforce GPS location accuracy for civilian utilization with these new indicators.

Whereas each L2 and L5 indicators are extra highly effective than the L1 sign and have extra bandwidth, the L5 is one of the best of the three at just about every part, together with coping with interference and multipath errors. Additionally, L2 is meant for use with the L1 sign to spice up its accuracy; the L5 sign may be interpreted independently.

L5 began broadcasting on supported satellites in 2014, and as of June 2022, it’s transmitted by 17 GPS satellites. As any GPS sign broadcast by lower than 18-24 satellites is taken into account of restricted use, L5 will take at the least another satellite tv for pc launch to develop into moderately useful. 24 L5 succesful satellites are anticipated to succeed in the skies by 2027.

Why Does L5 Matter?

GPS satellite
U.S. House Drive

As talked about, L5 is probably the most superior GPS sign obtainable for civilian use. Though it’s primarily meant for life-critical and high-performance functions, corresponding to serving to plane navigate, it’s obtainable for everybody, just like the L1 sign. So the producers of mass-market client units corresponding to smartphones, health trackers, in-car navigation methods, and smartwatches are integrating it into their units to supply the very best GPS expertise.

One of many key benefits that the L5 sign possesses is that it makes use of the 1176.45MHz radio frequency, which is reserved for aeronautical navigation worldwide. As such, it doesn’t have to fret about interference from some other radio wave visitors on this frequency, corresponding to tv broadcasts, radars, and any ground-based navigation aids.

With L5 knowledge, your gadget can entry extra superior strategies to find out which indicators have much less error and successfully pinpoint the placement. It’s significantly useful at areas the place GPS sign may be acquired however is severely degraded. In such conditions, L5, due to its elevated bandwidth, can provide extra info useful in figuring out reflections current within the acquired sign.

Moreover, the stronger L5 sign ends in higher protection in dense city environments and helps units get a location lock rapidly. Lastly, its decrease frequency enhances reception for indoor use.

So, you possibly can anticipate units able to receiving the L5 sign to offer extra correct location knowledge than units with the L1 or L2 indicators.

Which Gadgets Use the L5 Sign?

Apple Watch Ultra

Machine producers have began utilizing the L5 sign as part of the dual-frequency GPS alongside the L1 sign. The Xiaomi Mi 8 was the primary smartphone to get L5 help in 2018, however since then, a number of units with the identical characteristic have landed available on the market. Among the in style units that we all know are able to receiving the L5 GPS sign embody the Apple Watch Extremely, Garmin’s GPSMAP 65, 65s, and 66sr handheld GPS trackers, Google Pixel 4, 5, and 6-series telephones, and Samsung’s Galaxy S22+, S21+, and S21 Extremely telephones.

Sadly, getting one checklist with all units able to receiving the L5 GPS sign is not possible. However this open database on Google Sheets, containing info from the GPSTest Android app, appears to incorporate most Android telephones that help the L5 sign.

Plus, in case you are curious whether or not your Android telephone helps it or not, Huawei recommends utilizing the GNSSLogger by Google. You should utilize the app to seize the worldwide navigation satellite tv for pc system (GNSS) knowledge and decide L5 sign presence. The GPSTest app talked about earlier can also be typically really useful as one of many choices to verify whether or not an Android gadget helps L5.

Another choice is reaching out to the gadget producer to seek out out whether or not a selected gadget helps the L5 sign.

Keep in mind, the L5 sign require new {hardware} and gained’t work on older units which can be solely suitable with the L1 sign.

L5 Indicators Aren’t Restricted to GPS

GPS, which is owned by the US authorities, isn’t the one world navigation satellite tv for pc system (GNSS). It isn’t the one GNNS to make use of the L5 sign, both. China’s BeiDou, the EU’s Galileo, India’s IRNSS, and Japan’s QZSS additionally transmit indicators within the L5 frequency. Plus, Russia’s Glonass plans to launch satellites able to broadcasting the L5 sign by 2025.

L5 indicators from these satellite tv for pc methods can be utilized by many GPS receivers employed by consumer-grade units. These multi-GNSS receivers can provide even higher location accuracy than people who solely use GPS.

Improved Location Accuracy

The L5 sign is a welcome addition to the GPS arsenal. It may considerably improve the placement accuracy in your units, make getting a location lock sooner, and even work higher at locations the legacy L1 band sometimes struggles. That mentioned, on the time of writing the US authorities is but to place sufficient satellites to make the L5 sign formally operational, so it’ll take at the least a few years for us to reap all of its advantages.

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