Satellite Navigation Systems

Learning Objectives

  • to understand the impact that Satellite Navigation devices have on individuals and communities.

Learning Outcomes

Must – understand what a Satellite Navigation device is and how it works.

Should – be able to explain the benefits and drawbacks of using a Satellite Navigation device.

Could – discuss the impact that Satellite Navigation systems have on individuals and communities lives.

Satellite Navigation Systems

A Satellite Navigation System, or Sat Nav, as it is commonly known, is a device used by a variety of different people to find the way to a destination by using GPS.

Most Sat Nat devices are used by motorists.  Common brands of Sat Nav system are TomTom and Garmin, these are devices built with one key feature in mind, to allow the motorist to find their way by typing in a Postcode/Destination or a Landmark and using the GPS to plot a route.  The Sat Nav usually comes with pre-installed Maps and these maps are used along with the GPS to plot the route.

A Sat Nav is useful as it uses primarily spoken instructions, this allows the user to both view the screen and listen to the instructions.  Sat Navs can also plot a new route if the original turn is missed or the driver goes in the wrong direction.

Over the past few years, Sat Navs have been developed for cyclists and walkers.

Google and Apple have developed Maps on smartphone devices that can be used as Sat Navs.  This has meant increased competition to TomTom and Garmin as these Maps are available for download at no additional cost.


Sat Navs have brought many benefits.  These include:

  • less reliance on paper based maps and street maps.  Map reading is a skill and this is time-consuming and distracting.
  • Plug and Play, less time having to spend plotting a route.  Type in the destination and away you go once a signal has been found.
  • use of Internet based subscription services for finding petrol stations, hotels etc.
  • sat navs can plot new routes.  This is useful for avoiding hold ups, accidents and diversions.


  • distractions at the wheel.  Some drivers spend too long looking at the screens and less time concentrating on the route ahead.
  • smaller villages become rat runs.  Sat Navs have meant that traffic has been sent down unsuitable roads which cause accidents and vehicles getting stuck.
  • loss of signal.  Bridges, tunnels etc cannot receive a GPS signal so the route will be lost.
  • maps are expensive.  Newer maps cost money and these have to be renewed once a map changes.
  • a loss in map reading skills.  People no longer own and use paper-based maps.
  • over-reliance on GPS.  Users become too fixated on Sat Navs, so when faced with not being able to use one they are unable to know how or where to get to where they need to go.

Task 1 

Download these two worksheets 1 & 2.  Complete the questions by either printing it out or word-processing the answers.

Task 2 

A friend is thinking of purchasing a TomTom sat nav device.  You have advised them that their smartphone could be used as a sat nav using Google Maps.

Investigate the pros and cons of each device being used as a sat nav.