Navigation has been one of the fundamental tools used by humanity to gain an advantage over the environment. It has allowed humans to accurate calculate geography and direction to provide essential supplements for trade, transportation, exploration, military and architecture. The history of navigation has evolved greatly since the first ancient navigation devices were implemented.
Initially celestial bodies were one of the oldest forms of determining positioning for fisherman and sailors on the ocean. Ironically this still holds true with modern technology as well since satellites, which are similar to man made celestial bodies, largely govern the GPS systems used by most sailors today. Other ways ancient fishermen were able to determine their approximate location was by surveying the land and estimating the winds direction and currents to provide an estimate of their location.
Today the most commonly used guidance system for commercial use is GPS. Global positioning works by identifying a coordinate through triangulation from the local device and two satellites in orbit of the Earth. The benefit of global positioning is the virtually limitless functionality in all weather patterns around the Earth and accurately determine a time and location.
Prior to the development of GPS technology, radio frequencies were used to determine the location of airports for pilots in aerial navigation techniques. Radio frequencies were also used to track planes in the sky and was developed by the military to detect enemy bombers and fighters before they could be visibly seen in WW II. RADAR as it was coined by the United States Navy, was one of the most instrumental technological advancements in aerial warfare.
Advancements in technologies have allowed us to navigate not only our planet but outer space as well. The use of global positioning systems (GPS) have been implemented in military technology, automobiles, commercial industries and even cell phones. Global positioning systems are one of the hottest trends in the world of navigation because this can be relayed easily to computers, smart phones and navigation systems to allow cross platform functionality. Developments in navigation systems and related technologies have dramatically improved the ability to travel and wage warfare.
Types of Navigation
Although navigation technologies can be used for the most part across almost all fields of transportation, there are some varying differences in use. For example land navigation applies towards sea and areal navigation techniques, however sonar can be used in maritime applications to determine how shallow the water is. Additionally it is necessary for aircraft to be able to monitor their altitude for safety purposes.
Land navigation began with the development of cartography which uses charts to map locations and landmarks that are distinguishable by a traveler. Although there are not many methods to navigate from land besides the use of visual landmarks and celestial bodies this is a specialty which is used by military personnel in a process called orienteering, typically used by scouts to traverse land by vehicle or foot and determine obstacles and enemy movements. Organizations like the boy scouts also teach methods of land navigation such as examining moss growth on trees to determine bearing.
Naval navigation methods were one of the first developed. Initially celestial bodies were used a reference for guidance at sea during the night, most notably the North Star was one of the landmarks many humans used. The first compass was believed to have been developed in ancient China and was a crude mechanism to utilize polarity to determine direction. Unlike what is commonly thought, true compasses are actually attracted to the the South Pole and pointed in the southern direction, however this was resolved with the development of modern magnetic compasses to indicate north.
Aerial navigation is a challenge that has plagued both military and commercial pilots since the invention of the plane. Initially pilots attempted to use the standard sea based systems like a compass and gyroscope however these proved to be ineffective. During and after World War II the technology for RADAR (radio detection and ranging) was developed which provided a solution for this issue. Although the name RADAR was coined by the United States Navy, this technology was developed through a collaboration of scientific minds from a variety of countries. RADAR systems are now used heavily in defensive fortifications outside of navigation techniques as well.
Satellite navigation systems are of course some of the most accurate and reliable today. With an ever growing number of artificial celestial bodies being added to our orbit, satellites are devices which have vastly improved humanities capabilities to communicate and analyze data around the world.
Global positioning systems or GPS are the most common form of satellite navigation we have today. This technology has been implemented in cell phones, automobiles, military equipment and a whole host of other devices available to people around the world.