Trilateration vs Triangulation: An Interesting Guide(2021)


Throughout the years, people have used a variety of methods to roam the world. Traditionally, people relied on it in the stars and the signs of the earth moving between different places, while maps and compasses help prevent people from entering loss. The arrival of the Land Reform Program, or ‘GPS’ in short, means that people no longer have to rely on these traditional and often difficult placement methods to find their way around.

GPS is a satellite navigation system designed to get you where you’re going by taking a series of measurements, starting with where you are. It works by measuring the distance from one point on Earth’s surface to another and then triangulating that location on three lines intersecting in the centre of the planet. 

In this article let us look at:

  1. GPS receivers use trilateration.
  2. Trilateration measures distance, not angles.
  3. Triangulation measures angles, not distance.


When you get a new GPS satellite for your car, you’re sure to have seen advertisements showing a little cartoon aeroplane or a tri clops spaceship coming in for a landing or a helicopter flying overhead. Aren’t these cool?  You’re probably familiar with what GPS receivers do — they take measurements of the Earth’s position and then calculate how far it is to each other. But how does it work?  

They use a technique called Trilateration. Trilateration involves measuring distances. Let’s dive into this a little more.


Trilateration uses two points, often called trilateration points. An arc is the path taken around the trilateration points and has to be measured from the trilateration points and the plane of interest. 

Trilateration measures distance around a point, such as a triangle. For example, on a table with three legs, if one leg is extended away from the table and the other three legs are together, the distance between all the points is two units. Three legs equal five points, two legs equal three points, and one leg equals one point. This two-point trilateration is also called one point or one point around a triangle. Trilateration also measures angles around a point, such as a triangle. For example, a triangle with three legs has five possible angles: 10 degrees, 20 degrees, 30 degrees, 45 degrees, and 90 degrees.

Trilateration works by finding your position on Earth where GPS satellites orbiting the Earth are located, and their distance from your location is known. Because we cannot physically measure the distance between these specific satellites, we need to use the known signal speed sent by GPS satellites and the time sent signals. This is quite simple because satellites send electric signals regularly. If the GPS receiver receives a signal from a single satellite, which can be said to be anywhere in the field, then the range is equal to the distance calculated from the satellite.

If we only accept signals from two satellites (for example, satellites A and B), we see that we are in a certain place in a circle drawn by them that falls into the categories defined by the two symbols. But with a third-party satellite signal, we can tell the exact location of our device because these three segments will override one location.


In the past, it was challenging to measure long distances accurately. Still, it was possible to accurately measure the angles between points separated by miles, limited only by the ability to see a distant beacon. This can be anywhere from a few miles to 50 miles or more. Triangulation is a test method that measures the angles of a triangle made up of three points to control the survey.

Although the calculations used are similar to the trigonometry taught in high school, because the distance between the test points is usually longer (usually about 30 miles), the figures also allow the earth to bend.

It is based on the assumption that the starting point and ending points of the triangle are at the same distance from you. But GPS does not assume that the starting and ending points of a triangle are at the same distance from you. Instead, it estimates the distance to your starting point and endpoints. It does that by measuring the distance between the satellite and the receiver, then subtracting the amount of change in that distance from its previous measurement.

Also, surveyors use triangulation to measure unknown distances, and they do this by establishing a baseline length. Surveyors use an instrument called theodolites that measures angles of distant points. When we get to know the lengths and angles, triangulation helps determine the distances by forming triangles. 


As GPS satellites transmit their location and time, trilaterations measure distances to pinpoint their exact location on Earth.

While explorers use a triangle to measure remote points, GPS positioning does not include any angles.

With distance measurement, your exact GPS location can be determined. However, a number of factors such as HDOP, PDOP, GDOP, and spirit can affect GPS accuracy.

GPS is a remarkable measurement and navigation system.

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