What Is GPS Drift? Causes and Prevention of GPS drift

what is gps drift

Remember when you went to see a friend but wasted a significant amount of time as your GPS tracker sent you in the wrong direction? We’ve all been there. And this always makes us wonder, “Should we really trust the accuracy of the GPS?”. Well, the answer to the question might not be certain, and we are about to show you why.

We call this concerning phenomenon ‘GPS drift’. There are certain things to keep in mind to protect yourself from this phenomenon. But first, we need to know what it exactly is and why this matters to us. In this blog, we are about to answer all your questions and suggest magical ways to avoid this by keeping a few simple things in mind.

What is GPS drift?

GPS drift, in simple terms, is when your GPS device doesn’t accurately show your exact location or changes position slightly over time. It thinks you are a few steps away from your actual position. While this is a common issue, we have less conversation on this term than the required amount. The reason is simple: lack of awareness.

Let’s try to understand this with an example. Have you ever played the game of hide and seek before? Suppose your friends are hiding in your house, and you try to find them. Now, the twist comes when your friends start giggling and their voices echo through the walls of the room, and this confuses you about their location. This is exactly how GPS drift works. Similar factors, like tall buildings or interference, confuse the device about the exact location. We hope this makes the phenomenon crystal clear.

Factors Causing GPS Drift

Numerous factors demonstrate the inaccuracy of GPS trackers, be it a warm start, a slow start, or a multi-path error. Now that we know what GPS drift is, we need to address it and find a solution. For that, we should first know the factors that cause it.

Tall Buildings

As we discussed above, tall buildings have a major impact on GPS accuracy. This is because the GPS signals that guide your device bounce off these tall buildings. This creates “multipath interference.” This is because the signals take different paths to reach the device, and this confuses your GPS about your exact location.


Another essential factor is the weather. Bad weather, like heavy rain or snow, messes with the signals. The water droplets or ice particles in the air scatter the signals and make it difficult for your device to receive them. It makes the GPS device imprecise.

Trees and mountains

In dense forests or near mountains, the GPS signals may get blocked or reflected off the natural terrain. Similar to how physical obstacles block radio waves, this interference does the same. This ultimately leads to location errors.

Satellite Positions

We all know that GPS satellites are always moving. This means that if your device fails to connect to enough of them, it might have trouble pinpointing your location accurately. So, the configuration of satellites in the sky at any given moment affects the signal strength.

Atmospheric Conditions

Did you know that even the air around us affects GPS accuracy? You will be surprised to know that the Earth’s atmosphere may slow down GPS signals as they travel through it. This bending or slowing of the signals due to different atmospheric conditions introduces errors in your GPS location data.

Solar Activity

Not only the air, but even the sun has a hand in GPS inaccuracy. But how? Solar flares and geomagnetic storms disrupt GPS signals by creating variations in the Earth’s ionosphere. The sun’s activity influences these disturbances, which introduce errors into GPS calculations and result in inaccurate location data.

Solutions to Avoid GPS Drift

We have reached halfway to the other side. We know what GPS drift is, and we also know what causes it. Now is the time to educate ourselves with practical and doable ways that will help us avoid it and maintain GPS accuracy. Apart from the common GPS tracking mistakes, other common points often go overlooked by us, and we will cover them in this blog.

Clear Line of Sight

As we mentioned, tall buildings often come in the way of the portable GPS tracker. To avoid this, place your GPS device closer to your windshield, where it has a better line of sight to the sky. Avoid placing it in the lower part of your dashboard, as this obstructs signals.

Download offline maps

In situations of bad weather, it is a good practice to drive more cautiously and rely on additional signage for navigation. This includes downloading offline maps for regions with poor connectivity. This ensures that you have access to maps even when you are in areas with poor or no data coverage.

Dense Forests and Hiking

One thing to keep in mind while hiking is to stay in more open areas for better signal reception. Keeping your GPS device near a window if you are in a vehicle also helps. The goal is to have a clear line of sight and keep your GPS device or smartphone in a stable and stationary position. Sudden movements make it harder for the device to accurately calculate your location.

Antenna Position

A study shows various factors that affect GPS accuracy. While these are common issues, we can incorporate methods to avoid them. For example, some external GPS antennas provide a more robust signal, particularly in vehicles. These antennas are often mounted on the roof or dashboard and offer better connectivity.

Use multiple sources

One simple way to avoid GPS drift is to use multiple sources. In critical situations or areas with known GPS signal challenges, the use of multiple sources of information, such as road signs, paper maps, or asking for directions from locals, helps to save time and get more accurate and reliable location updates.


Calibrate your device, especially if you have recently changed its settings or been in a new location. It helps the GPS tracker understand its orientation better. It establishes a correct baseline and compensates for local variations. Fine-tuning sensors enhances orientation precision, and regular checks optimize long-term accuracy, especially when settings or locations change.

 One thing to remember is that while these solutions may help us minimize GPS drift, they cannot remove it completely. This phenomenon is caused by several natural factors as well, which are often not in the control of human beings.

Family1st Portable GPS Tracker: The Ultimate Solution

Well, what’s better than enjoying that well-deserved trip with your family without having to worry about GPS drift or inaccuracy? We get it. That’s why Family1st comes up with one of the best GPS trackers available on the market. We say this because our team went through a series of analyses around the pain points of people having troubles related to the accuracy of GPS location and geofencing.

Family1st portable GPS Tracker is a compact device that is easy to fit anywhere. It is quick and easy to install, with features that solve common issues you may face. Here’s why you should consider the Family1st portable GPS tracker:

Key Features

  • Create up to 10 geofencing zones and get alerts if you cross them.
  • Extended battery life of up to 2 weeks
  • Water-resistant
  • 4G Connectivity
  • Compatible with Alexa

 And the features don’t end here. You also get 24/7 email support to get your queries answered instantly at all times. What sets us apart? Family1st understands your busy schedule and the annoyance caused by constant notifications. Therefore, our portable GPS tracker doesn’t ping your phone every few minutes. Real-time location can be checked on the app easily.


GPS is a satellite-based radio navigation system that the US government owns, according to Wikipedia. While this sounds complex, this GPS has always been an integral part of our lives, and we all use it to find peace on our journeys. But like any other device, it also has some issues. We learned about the phenomenon of GPS drift and how to avoid it by incorporating a few simple ways into our daily routine.

 With this, we hope that we were able to help you find answers to your questions. At Family1st, we always highlight the importance of safe and secure travel. Our portable GPS tracker is made to suit all your needs and provides accuracy in pinpointing the exact location.

 Book a call with us now to learn more about our trackers and safeguard your journeys.


You'll Also Like...

  • common problems with gps system

    8 Common Problems With GPS Vehicle Tracking Systems- Family1st Guide

  • Is It Common For GPS Trackers To Have No Signal?

  • factors affecting gps accuracy

    11 Factors that Affect GPS Accuracy – A Family1st Insight

Leave a Reply