How Is GPS Used in Construction?

By Julius Vandersteen

Construction crews use GPS devices to precisely locate their work areas.
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GPS technology was originally used by the United States military, which launched a system of satellites into orbit around the Earth to help plan troop movements and obtain precise locations for deployment of personnel and equipment. Today, GPS technology is also commonly used in civilian applications, including in the construction industry.


Construction crews can save time when surveying locations where they are doing work by using GPS units. Instead of having to train crews to use conventional surveying equipment, construction companies can issue GPS devices to their workers, because it’s easier to use GPS devices to collect data about an area under construction, such as a new road section. Construction crews can obtain accurate data more quickly with GPS units, freeing them up to begin construction earlier.

Handheld and Vehicle Units

GPS units installed in vehicles can help drivers find the exact location at a job site where they need to deliver materials and equipment, as well as where to drop off construction crews. Teams of construction workers who are working on a large project can use GPS units to make sure they meet in the middle; the teams that constructed the tunnel that links England and France used GPS devices in such a way. In addition, a handheld GPS unit is useful when construction workers must walk to an area that is not yet accessible to large GPS-equipped vehicles.

Fleet Management

A foreman or manager can manage vehicles in his construction company’s fleet by placing a GPS device on each vehicle. GPS software on a computer or a smartphone enables managers to see how fast each vehicle is moving. This information is vital for construction firms seeking to maximize employee safety. Managers can also rank drivers according to how fast they are driving, then give speeders a refresher course on the procedures for safely operating construction vehicles.

Lost or Stolen Equipment

A GPS device configured to send its data over the Internet enables construction company owners to locate the position of a vehicle that they believe has been lost or stolen. The coordinates appear on a computer-generated map, and can help authorities pinpoint the location and direction of travel of a vehicle so they can intercept it.