Arduino GPS Modules – Which one to use? Comparison and Arduino Tutorial

Introduction to GPS and GPS Modules

You’re probably familiar with GPS as the ones that give you directional information through your phone, car, or on your preferred maps app. However, have you wondered what goes into it and how do these modules give you an accurate position anytime, anywhere?

When were GPS satellites launched?

GPS dates back to the late ’70s.

How do GPS modules work?

Satellite Technology.

GPS modules contain tiny processors and antennas that directly receive data sent by satellites through dedicated RF frequencies. From there, it’ll receive timestamp from each visible satellites, along with other pieces of data. If the module’s antenna can spot 4 or more satellites, it’s able to accurately calculate its position and time.

Arduino GPS Modules?

I’ll be introducing and comparing three GPS modules today; NEO-6M, Grove – GPS Module and Grove – GPS (Air530). These GPS modules are compatible with Arduino and Raspberry Pi, making it easy for you to start trying it out.

Today’s guide will cover:

  • Things to consider before purchasing a GPS module
  • Features of: NEO-6M, Grove – GPS Module and Grove – GPS (Air530)
  • Ublox NEO-6M GPS Module vs Grove – GPS Module vs Grove – GPS (Air530)
  • Arduino GPS Projects

Things to consider before purchasing a GPS module

Things to considerRationale
SizeSizing matters as it may affect things like lock time and accuracy if the antenna doesn’t fit

If your project requires it to be pocket sized, size matters as well
Update RateUpdate rate refers to how often the GPS module recalculates and reports its position

1Hz is sufficient and the norm for most GPS module
5-10Hz update rates can be considered if you need it to work on faster vehicles
Baud RateRefers to how fast data is sent over a serial line
Higher the baud rate allows for faster GPS data to be sent
Navigation SensitivitydBm figure dictates how prone the gps module is able to capture the frequency

Higher dbm indicates that the module is able to better pickup satalite signals
Power RequirementsGPS modules can consume a substantial amount of power

Average being 30mA at 3.3V
Number of ChannelsNumber of channels that the module runs will affect time to first fix

More frequencies that you can check at once, allow for faster fix time

12 – 14 channels work fine for tracking if you don’t mind waiting a little longer
AntennasEach antenna is designed to pickup GPS L1 frequency of 1.5752 GHz

Position and design of antenna is crucial for optimal performance of GPS
AccuracyLower the distance it can get down to = Higher accuracy
Usually able to find out your location within 30 seconds, down to +/- 10m

Most modules can get it down to +/-3m

So now as we know what we are looking for in a GPS Module, let us take a look at a few GPS Modules in the market now:


Arduino GPS Modules

Ublox GPS: NEO-6M GPS Module

Considered as one of the more popular GPS modules in the market, the NEO-6M module is a family of stand-alone GPS receivers from the NEO-6 module series.

Based on the list of considerations:

Size: 23mm x 30mm

Update Rate: 1 Hz, 5Hz maximum

Power Requirements:

  • Power Supply Voltage: 3V – 5V

Baud Rate: 9600

Sensitivity: -161dBm

Number of Channels: 50

Time to first start:

  • Cold Start: 27s
  • Warm Start: 27s
  • Hot Start: 1s
  • Aided Starts: <3s

Antennas: Includes external patch antenna

Accuracy:

  • 2.5m GPS Horizontal Position Accuracy

Product Applications:

  • Battery operated mobile devices
  • GPS tracker
  • GPS navigator

Grove – GPS Module

The Grove – GPS Module is Seeed version of a GPS receiver that’s cost-efficient and field-programmable. It’s armed with a SIM28 and serial communication configuration.

Size: 40mm x 20mm x 13mm

Update Rate: 1 Hz, max 10 Hz

Power Requirements: 3.3/5V

Baud Rate: 9600 – 115,200

Sensitivity: -160dBm

Number of Channels: 22 trackings// 66 acquisition channels

Time to first start:

  • Cold starts with EASY: 13s
  • Warm Starts with EASY: 1-2s
  • Hot Starts: <1s

*Easy is a self-generate orbit protection

Antennas: Antenna included in the package

Accuracy: 2.5m GPS Horizontal Position Accuracy

Product Applications:

  • GPS tracker
  • GPS navigation
  • Distance measurement

Other Product Features:

  • Low power consumption
  • Baud rates configurable
  • Grove compatible interface

Grove – GPS (Air530)

Grove - GPS (Air530)

Next up, we have the Grove – GPS (Air530). It’s a high-performance, highly integrated multi-mode satellite positioning and navigation module. It supports GPS / Beidou / Glonass / Galileo / QZSS / SBAS, which makes it suitable for GNSS positioning applications such as car navigation, smart wear, and drone.

If your GPS isn’t working well in urban areas or outdoors under only one or a few satellite modules, you should definitely check out this GPS module. Meanwhile, this module is capable of receiving more than 6 satellites at the same time and is able to work excellently even if there’s a very bad signal.

This GPS adopts the integrated design of RF baseband, which integrates DC/DC, LDO, LNA, RF front-end, baseband processing, 32-bit RISC based chip, RAM, FLASH storage, RTC and power management functions.

Size: 40mm x 20mm x 13mm

Update Rate:

Power Requirements: 3.3/5V

Baud Rate:

Sensitivity:

Number of Channels:

Time to first start:

  • Cold start: 30 seconds
  • Warm Start: 4 seconds

Antennas: Antenna included in the package

Accuracy: 2.5m Horizontal positioning accuracy

Product Applications:

  • GPS tracker
  • GPS navigation
  • Distance measurement

Other Product Features:

  • Highly integrated Multi-mode satellite positioning and navigation
  • Grove compatible interface

Ublox NEO-6M GPS Module vs Grove – GPS Module vs Grove – GPS (Air530)

When compared side by side:

Things to considerNEO-6MGrove – GPS ModuleGrove – GPS (Air530)
Size23mm x 30mm40mm x 20mm x 13mm40mm x 20mm x 13mm
Update Rate1Hz, max 5Hz1Hz, max 10Hz
Baud RateDefault 9,600, max 2304009,600 – 115,200
Navigation Sensitivity-161dBm-160dBm
Power Requirements3V – 5V3.3/5V3.3/5V
Number of Channels22 tracking, 50 channels22 tracking, 66 channels
Time to first startCold start: 27s
Warm start: 27s
Hot start: 1s
Cold start: 13s
Warm start: 1-2s
Hot start: <1s
Cold start: 30 seconds
Warm Start: 4 seconds
AntennasExternal patch antennaAntenna includedAntenna included
Accuracy2.5m GPS Horizontal Position Accuracy2.5m GPS Horizontal Position Accuracy2.5m Horizontal positioning accuracy

Which GPS Module is better?

Better power consumption:

The Grove – GPS (Air530) has a ultra-low power consumption at only 31uA, low power mode at 0.85 mA making the Air530 the better GPS with lower power consumption.

Scalability:

With a higher maximum update rate, the Grove GPS Module is able to be used for projects that involve objects that travel at a faster speed. Furthermore, having more channels open up for other applications as well.

The Grove- GPS (Air 530) has a multi-mode satellite positioning & navigation and supports more than 6 satellites at the same time.

Accuracy:

Featuring Horizontal positioning accuracy of 2.5m, High positioning accuracy of 3.5m, speed accuracy of 0.1m/s, and a time transfer accuracy of 30ns, the Grove -GPS (Air530) is able to position quickly and accurately even under the condition of a bad signal. 


Pair your GPS modules with:

Seeeduino, Seeed very own Arduino Board:

Seeduino V4.2 is Seeed version of an Arduino, which can be used to pair with your GPS modules.

The base shield is designed for better ease of connecting the Grove GPS Module.

Hardware configuration :

  1. Connect Grove-GPS to port D2 of Grove Base Shield
  2. Plug Grove – Base Shield into Seeeduino
  3. Connect Seeeduino to PC via a USB cable

For software and further configurations, you can head here

Raspberry Pi

If you do not own a raspberry pi yet, you can consider picking up a low-cost RPI Zero alongside with the Grove Base Hat to pair the Grove GPS Module.

If already you own a Raspberry Pi 2/3B/3B+/4/Zero, you can simply pair it with the Grove Base Hat.

Both the hardware and software configurations can be found here


Arduino GPS Projects

Now that you have just picked your GPS module, here are some projects that you can do with your Arduino and GPS module.

Vehicle Tracking System

Vehicle Tracking System Based on GPS and GSM

With a GPS module together with the Arduino, you can easily install a vehicle tracking system in your car. In the event your car gets stolen or you forgot where you parked it, you can easily track your car with your mobile phone through this project.

What do you need?

Interested? You can check out the full tutorial by Muchika on Arduino Project Hub.

LED Bike Speedometer

Ref: JeremyCook

Want to find out how fast you are riding? With this DIY bike speedometer, using GPS technology for speed sensing, you can tell how fast you are going! It also features an RGB LED to indicate the speed to the rider.

What do you need?

Interested? You can check out the full tutorial by Jeremy S. Cook on Arduino Project Hub.

Personal GPS Assistant

Ref: Mohamed Fadiga

This project is a device that lets you monitor people and things, and tell you continuously their location, and the values of the sensors attached to it.

One of the feature allows you to set limit values for the sensors, and when these are exceeded an SMS alert is sent to you. You can also set restrictions from some places, where alerts will be given to you when the device leaves the area.

It’s also possible to communicate with the device through SMS, in order to get information about it.

What do you need?

Interested? You can check out the full tutorial by Mohamed Fadiga on Arduino Project Hub.

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