Finding GPS coordinates is easy – and there are several methods you can use to obtain the coordinates you require. Don’t always just accept GPS coordinates when you find them – it is best to have a general idea of the coordinates you are wanting so you can assess whether they appear reasonable at first glance.
Finding GPS Coordinates Manually
The quickest and easiest way to find GPS coordinates is manually using a GPS receiver. The best time to use one is on a clear day with little wind or elements that may affect the accuracy of your reading.
On your GPS receiver it should tell you how many satellites you are connecting to. There are 24 active global positioning satellites circumnavigating the Earth – and the more of these that you are connected to the more accurate your GPS coordinates will be. Generally speaking, if you have four or more satellites connected to your device then your reading should be pretty accurate – any less and you should try again at another time.
Another way to manually find GPS coordinates is to use a printed map or atlas – as these have coordinates plotted onto them. However, use maps with caution as the coordinates will be plotted using the cartographers chosen datum. If the map is US-based then they will generally use US datum, meaning that if you are looking for GPS coordinates in Australia for example, then there can be inaccuracies of up to 100m. Always use a map that uses local datum to get the most accurate coordinates.
Using Public Domain Databases to Find GPS Coordinates
Most countries have a public domain database on which GPS coordinates can be searched for. In the USA, the GNIS database is organized and run by the United States Geological Survey and contains a huge list of locations in the United States. The database is accessible through their website.
Take note however that not all locations will be featured in the database – and remote locations may require you to find an alternative method for finding GPS coordinates.
Using the public domain database does generally bring you back very accurate and up-to-date coordinates so it is a very reliable source if it lists the location you require.
Using the Internet to Find GPS Coordinates
There are several websites that have online methods for obtaining GPS coordinates. Some are more reliable than others – so be sure to check your results with various sources before taking them as fact.
GPS coordinate websites use a variety of different methods to calculate your chosen GPS coordinates including: global browsers, URL coordinate converters, maps; name searches and GPS coordinate conversion calculators.
If using a website that uses maps to calculate GPS coordinates – the same rule applies as before – check what datum they are using and if it is accurate to your specified location. There are hundreds of websites that can provide you with GPS coordinates – but it is best to use one that is a website local to the area you are looking for.
Using Google Tools to Find GPS Coordinates
Google Maps have become a worldwide phenomenon and are a fantastic resource for finding GPS coordinates. In fact, many other GPS coordinate websites utilize the technology behind Google Maps in providing their results.
There are several ways in which you can use Google to find GPS coordinates. The first method is to simply type the place name you are after along with ‘latitude and longitude’ into the search engine and it should bring back numerous results that can help you.
Google Earth is another fantastic tool for finding GPS coordinates. You simply need to search for a location that you are looking for and zoom in on it. Click on the location and you will see the exact GPS coordinates that you require.
Using NASA World Wind to Find GPS Coordinates
The final method of finding GPS coordinates that we shall cover today is using NASA’s World Wind program. NASA World Wind can be used to access a massive database of U.S. and global place names including landmarks and anthropogenic features.
You can even download the program onto your computer for use in offline searches.