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  • Writer's pictureJ. David Grossman

Driving America's Future through GPS

Updated: Jul 30, 2018

By: J. David Grossman, Executive Director, GPS Innovation Alliance

Lost and need directions? Requesting a rideshare from home? Or maybe a visit to a new city has you seeking nearby restaurants? Thanks to our mobile devices and the app economy, the Global Positioning System, or GPS, has become a household name. But GPS is much more than just a tool for navigation. Nearly every sector of our economy depends on it, from agriculture and banking, to aviation, defense and public safety. GPS is also driving new and emerging technologies, including drones, autonomous vehicles and wearables.

In 2013, the GPS Innovation Alliance (GPSIA) was founded with a goal to protect, promote and enhance the use of GPS. Over the past five years, the industry has continued to expand and flourish. By one estimate, GPS is estimated to provide a direct economic benefit of more than $67.6 billion per year and an indirect benefit of $122.4 billion right here in the United States. When it comes to jobs, GPS manufacturing is employing 130,000 people and an even larger pool of jobs, 3.2 million, relies on GPS technology.

So how did GPS become such an incredible American success story? That credit goes to the U.S. Air Force, which launched the first GPS satellite in 1978 and continues to maintain responsibility for operating the GPS constellation. For fiscal year 2018, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, signed by the president in March, provided $1.18 billion in funding for the operation, maintenance and future upgrades to the GPS program. GPSIA strongly supports this enacted appropriation and urges Congress to continue funding the GPS program at or above this level for fiscal year 2019.

As the GPSIA’s new executive director, I am excited to be part of sharing the story of GPS and how it benefits a diverse array of communities, from rural farms to the halls of Wall Street. Our Alliance is committed to promoting continued investment in satellite infrastructure; policies to combat spoofing and jamming of GPS signals; responsible use of personally-identifiable location information and policies that advance the deployment of wireless broadband while protecting GPS, one of the country’s most important and ubiquitous national utilities.

In reflecting on how GPS has become an integral part of our everyday lives — saving time, increasing efficiency and perhaps even keeping a few extra dollars in the pocket, it is important that we maintain an eye towards the future. GPS-enabled drones for example will enable accurate delivery of packages; allow farmers to survey their crops and maintain appropriate water levels; and support our first responders’ efforts to save lives. Similarly, autonomous vehicles, an industry that is expected to grow globally to $126.8 billion by 2027, depend on a variety of position and sensing technologies, including GPS, to ensure accuracy, availability, integrity and continuity.

As we celebrate the Alliance’s five-year anniversary and the 40th anniversary of the first GPS satellite, we are confident that GPS will continue to drive America’s future. GPSIA stands ready to support and work with policymakers, regulators and other stakeholders who share our commitment to the long-term future of GPS.

The author can be reached at or (202) 709-9001.



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