What Is a GPS Amplifier?

A global positioning system (GPS) amplifier is a professional, often military-grade device used to strengthen the signal and reach of a positioning unit. GPS systems have become commonplace in civilian life, used in cars and even some smartphones. Amplifiers are not generally designed for these contexts. In most cases, an amplifier is used on larger GPS units, usually in situations where there is a weak signal or where there is so much ambient activity over the airwaves that GPS signals are muted or blurred.

The GPS amplifier is usually designed to work only on major base units that are connected to external antennas, which are uncommon in anything but the most intense and rugged professional operations. Military operations around the world are the primary GPS amplifier market. Industries like aerospace are also target consumers.

Practically speaking, the GPS amplifier is often little more than an electrical router, sometimes as small as a thumb drive and rarely bigger than the average cell phone. In nearly all cases, it is a solid state amplifier, which means that its charger carriers are completely contained within its casing. It will usually include input jacks and frequency transmission lights, but all of the amplifier’s core parts are fixed and internal.

A GPS amplifier is usually designed with one of three main purposes in mind. It can extend the reach from the GPS base unit to the antenna, strengthen the signal from the base unit so that it can travel farther, or improve the clarity of the base unit’s signal so as to drown out and eliminate interference from other nearby stations or frequencies. Depending on how advanced a unit is, it may be able to perform several of these tasks simultaneously.

Amplifiers in the first category are primarily used in conjunction with cable extensions. Most GPS units must connect to their antennas using a thick coaxial cable. This cable can be extended for situations where the base unit and the antenna need to be separated, but the longer the cable, the weaker and less synchronized the readout. Routing the cable signal through the GPS amplifier can improve reliability. The same device can also be used as a splitter, connecting two or more base units to the same antenna.

Signal strengthening is one of the most popular uses for the device. A signal amplifier unit adds technological horsepower to an antenna’s broadcasting capabilities, with the result that the base station can both receive and transmit signals across greater distances. Most GPS units work off of satellite signals, which are more or less ubiquitous. In remote, densely wooded or mountainous areas, though, signals can nevertheless be hard to catch. Strengthening the frequency numbers is one way to hook and hold on to a signal.
Many GPS amplification tools are marketed as “low volume” or “low noise.” This does not usually relate to the volume of the GPS unit itself, as most units make no noises at all. Rather, it has to do with signal noise and frequency interference. An amplifier that is not “low noise” may add confusion to the original signal, resulting in a muddled, rather than a clarified, transmission.

Some highly specialized amplifiers are also capable of encrypting signals. Encryption amplifiers will act as a buffer from the base unit to the antenna, scrambling the data such that only readers with decoders installed can make sense of them. This is particularly useful in wartime, when soldiers and combat units are reporting their positions. So long as the signals are scrambled with an encoding or buffering application, positioning cannot be detected or rerouted by enemy devices.