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High Energy Particle Physics

GPS protection against weather damage

A simple method for protecting GPS sensors from sun damage


Richard Zhang & Jeff Pesula


GPS sensors are vulnerable to weather damage, and finding replacements can be expensive and difficult. Especially during the summer months, exposure to the sun is longer and more intense. Once the plastic-covered GPS sensors are placed at an outside location, they can become brittle and cracked over a few weeks. Therefore, the research group at Florida Institute of Technology has devised a simple method to protect our GPS sensors. Our solution is using simple plastic encasements that not only shields strong sunlight, but also keeps the device cool. Most importantly, however is that sensors should maintain a constant and unhindered contact to the satellites above.

Methods and Materials

Not every GPS sensor is identical and same dimensions. It is important to measure the size of the GPS sensor so to estimate the needed size to envelop GPS sensors. Our LeadTek sensors are ellipsoid: 2" wide, 2.5" long, and 0.5" high (see image). These GPS sensors are plastic-covered, so protection is essential. However, if your sensor is metallic-covered or UV coated, then protection is not necessary, but at best. Our research group bought several plastic boxes, about 5.6" long, 3.3" wide, and 2.0" high. These Serpac (see image) enclosures allow a loose, but good fit of GPS sensors. Although our boxes are black, we spray painted the boxes white to lessen heat absorption. In addition, we cut a small incision on one side of the boxes to allow the cables to run inside.


After letting the enclosed sensors become acquainted with the external environment, we observed that the GPS signals still received the same number of satellites, and were functioning normally. Although the effects of sun damage on GPS sensors are only prospective, we can assume that is the best choice to use our protective boxes to guarantee safety.



Sensor protection



LeadTek GPS sensor


Discussion and Conclusions

It is to everyone's best interest maintain working sensors without expensive replacements in the future. These boxes, additionally, can be replaced easily, usually costing ~$2 each, rather than hundreds to replace the sensors themselves. For those that cannot use GPS sensors in an internal environment, protection is needed, especially for facilities down in Florida with the constant sun.