Knowledge and use of the Global Positioning System (GPS) technology has increased tremendously over the last several years. Though unknown just a few years ago, today hikers use it as an invaluable tool to help them figure out where they are. And it's not just for hikers. The same is true for drivers, pilots, ship captains, firefighters and even parents hunting for an out-of-town amusement park or a restaurant.
Researchers at the Navy's Space and Naval Warfare (SPAWAR) Systems Center lab in beautiful San Diego are exploring ways to make GPS even better. Among the applied research avenues being explored by scientists and engineers is an effort to shrink the size of the atomic clock needed by the GPS system down to a size smaller than that of a dime. Pointing to a current atomic clock sitting in a rack of instrumentation equipment, engineer Edward Agunos jokes the new clock will definitely be easier to carry around. Working in an atmosphere where research is stressed and new challenges like improving GPS are part of the fun, is something these engineers crave. "You never get bored," says Nahal Abadi. "You always have something new to look forward to."