Difference between Azimuth and Elevation

Azimuth and elevation are two important measurements in navigation. They are two coordinates that denote the position of a point in the sky relative to a given location at a given time. This blog will look at both azimuth and elevation separately as well as their importance in navigation.

An azimuth is an angular measurement used in a spherical coordinate system. The vector from an origin point to a point of interest is projected perpendicularly onto a reference plane, with the angle between the origin and a reference vector on the reference plane representing the azimuth. Azimuth is measured in degrees and is used in navigation, astronomy, engineering, mapping, mining, and ballistics.

In navigation, azimuth is usually denoted as alpha, and is defined as a horizontal angle measured clockwise from a northern base line or meridian. Azimuth is also sometimes defined as a horizontal angle measured clockwise from any fixed reference plane or easily established base direction line. The most common reference plane for azimuth is true north, which is measured as 0° azimuth. Moving clockwise on a 360° circle, east is azimuth 90°, south 180°, and west 270°. Despite this, there are certain exceptions. For example, some navigation systems use south as the reference vector. As long as it is clearly defined, any direction can serve as the reference vector.

Elevation refers to a geographic location’s height above or below a fixed reference point such as sea level. The term elevation is most commonly used to refer to points on the earth’s surface, while altitude is mainly used for points above the sea level, such as an aircraft in flight. For points below the surface, the term depth is used. However, all of these reference similar things. In aviation specifically, ICAO (The International Civil Aviation Organization) defines elevation as the highest point of the landing area. Elevation is measured in feet and is listed in approach charts of the aerodrome. When dealing with elevation in aviation, the term should not be used interchangeably with terms such as the altitude or height.

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May 17, 2023
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