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VHF omnidirectional range

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This article is about the radio navigation aid, see VOR for other uses.

D-VOR (Doppler VOR) ground station, co-located with DME.

VOR, short for VHF omnidirectional radio range, is a type of radio navigation system for
aircraft. A VOR ground station broadcasts a VHF radio composite signal including the station's
identifier, voice (if equipped), and navigation signal. The identifier is morse code. The voice
signal is usually station name, in-flight recorded advisories, or live flight service broadcasts. The
navigation signal allows the airborne receiving equipment to determine a magnetic bearing from
the station to the aircraft (direction from the VOR station in relation to the Earth's magnetic
North at the time of installation). VOR stations in areas of magnetic compass unreliability are
oriented with respect to True North. This line of position is called the "radial" from the VOR.
The "intersection" of two radials from different VOR stations on a chart provides an approximate
position of the aircraft.


• 1 Description
o 1.1 History
o 1.2 Features
o 1.3 Operation
o 1.4 Service Volumes
o 1.5 VORs, Airways and the Enroute Structure
o 1.6 Future
• 2 Technical Specification
o 2.1 Constants
o 2.2 Variables
o 2.3 CVOR
o 2.4 DVOR
o 2.5 Accuracy and Reliability
• 3 Using a VOR
o 3.1 Testing
o 3.2 Positive Sensing and Reverse Sensing
o 3.3 Intercepting VOR Radials
• 4 See also
• 5 References

• 6 External links

[edit] Description
[edit] History




These symbols denote different types of VORs on aeronautical


Developed from earlier Visual-Aural Range (VAR) systems, the VOR was designed to provide
360 courses to and from the station, selectable by the pilot. Early vacuum tube transmitters with
mechanically-rotated antennas were widely installed in the 1950s, and began to be replaced with
fully solid-state units in the early 1960s. They became the major radio navigation system in the
1960s, when they took over from the older radio beacon and four-course (low/medium frequency
range) system. Some of the older range stations survived, with the four-course directional
features removed, as non-directional low or medium frequency radiobeacons (NDBs).
A worldwide land-based network of "air highways", known in the US as Victor airways (below
18,000 feet) and "jet routes" (at and above 18,000 feet), was set up linking VORs. An aircraft can
follow a specific path from station to station by tuning the successive stations on the VOR
receiver, and then either following the desired course on a Radio Magnetic Indicator, or setting it
on a Course Deviation Indicator (CDI, shown below) or a Horizontal Situation Indicator (HSI, a
more sophisticated version of the VOR indicator) and keeping a course pointer centered on the

Today VOR has almost entirely replaced the low/medium frequency ranges and beacons in
civilian aviation. Due to the higher maintenance cost and siting limitations of VOR transmitters,
more airports have NDB and RNAV (GPS) approach procedures than have VOR approach
procedures. Due to lower receiver and data update costs[1], more aircraft are equipped for
instrument approach by VOR than by GPS, though the number of aircraft equipped for GPS
approaches, and the number of approved GPS approaches is growing significantly.

[edit] Features

VORs signals provide considerably greater accuracy and reliability than NDBs due to a
combination of factors. VHF radio is less vulnerable to diffraction (course bending) around
terrain features and coastlines. Phase encoding suffers less interference from thunderstorms.

VOR signals offer a repeatable accuracy of 23 meters, 2 sigma[2]; as compared to the accuracy of
unaugmented Global Positioning System (GPS) which is less than 13 meters, 95%.[2] VOR
signals originate from fixed ground stations, usually below the aircraft, often at landing facilities.
Low incidence angle reflection from ground and clouds above enhances signal strength. Low
frequency (30Hz) suffers less timing distortion by reflection. VOR stations fixed relative to
landing facilities are usable for approaches without the trigonometric precalculations Area
Navigation database required for GPS.

VOR stations rely on "line of sight" because they operate in the VHF band—if the transmitting
antenna cannot be seen on a perfectly clear day from the receiving antenna, a useful signal
cannot be received. This limits VOR (and DME) range to the horizon—or closer if mountains
intervene. Although the modern solid state transmitting equipment requires much less
maintenance than the older units, an extensive network of stations, needed to provide reasonable
coverage along main air routes, is a significant cost in operating current airway systems.

[edit] Operation

VORs are assigned radio channels between 108.0 MHz (megahertz) and 117.95 MHz (with
50 kHz spacing); this is in the VHF (very high frequency) range.

The VOR encodes azimuth (direction from the station) as the phase relationship of a reference
and a variable signal. The omni-directional signal contains a modulated continuous wave
(MCW) 7 wpm Morse code station identifier, and usually contains an amplitude modulated
(AM) voice channel. The conventional 30 Hz reference signal is on a 9960 Hz frequency
modulated (FM) subcarrier. The variable amplitude modulated (AM) signal is conventionally
derived from the lighthouse-like rotation of a directional antenna array 30 times per second.
Although older antennas were mechanically rotated, current installations scan electronically to
achieve an equivalent result with no moving parts. When the signal is received in the aircraft, the
two 30 Hz signals are detected and then compared to determine the phase angle between them.
The phase angle by which the AM signal lags the FM subcarrier signal is equal to the direction
from the station to the aircraft, in degrees from local magnetic north, and is called the "radial."

This information is then fed to one of four common types of indicators:

1. An Omni-Bearing Indicator (OBI) is the typical light-airplane VOR indicator[3] and is

shown in the accompanying illustration. It consists of a knob to rotate an "Omni Bearing
Selector" (OBS), and the OBS scale around the outside of the instrument, used to set the
desired course. A "course deviation indicator" (CDI) is centered when the aircraft is on
the selected course, or gives left/right steering commands to return to the course. An
"ambiguity" (TO-FROM) indicator shows whether following the selected course would
take the aircraft to, or away from the station.
2. A Horizontal Situation Indicator (HSI) is considerably more expensive and complex than
a standard VOR indicator, but combines heading information with the navigation display
in a much more user-friendly format, approximating a simplified moving map.
3. A Radio Magnetic Indicator (RMI), developed previous to the HSI, features a course
arrow superimposed on a rotating card which shows the aircraft's current heading at the
top of the dial. The "tail" of the course arrow points at the current radial from the station,
and the "head" of the arrow points at the reciprocal (180 degrees different) course to the
4. An Area Navigation (RNAV) system is an onboard computer, with display, and up-to-
date navigation database. At least two VOR stations, or one VOR/DME station is
required, for the computer to plot aircraft position on a moving map, or display course
deviation relative to a waypoint (virtual VOR station).


In many cases, VOR stations have co-located DME (Distance Measuring Equipment) or military
TACAN (TACtical Air Navigation) — the latter includes both the DME distance feature and a
separate TACAN azimuth feature that provides military pilots data similar to the civilian VOR.
A co-located VOR and TACAN beacon is called a VORTAC. A VOR co-located only with
DME is called a VOR-DME. A VOR radial with a DME distance allows a one-station position
fix. Both VOR-DMEs and TACANs share the same DME system.
VORTACs and VOR-DMEs use a standardized scheme of VOR frequency to TACAN/DME
channel pairing so that a specific VOR frequency is always paired with a specific co-located
TACAN or DME channel. On civilian equipment, the VHF frequency is tuned and the
appropriate TACAN/DME channel is automatically selected.

[edit] Service Volumes

A VOR station serves a volume of airspace called its Service Volume. Some VORs have a
relatively small geographic area protected from interference by other stations on the same
frequency—called "terminal" or T-VORs. Other stations may have protection out to 130 nautical
miles (NM) or more. Although it is popularly thought that there is a standard difference in power
output between T-VORs and other stations, in fact the stations' power output is set to provide
adequate signal strength in the specific site's service volume.

In the United States, there are three standard service volumes (SSV): Terminal, Low, and High
(Standard Service Volumes do not apply to published Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) routes)[4].

US Standard Service Volumes (excerpted from FAA AIM[5])

SSV Class
From 1,000 feet above ground level (AGL) up to and including 12,000 feet AGL
T (Terminal)
at radial distances out to 25 NM.
L (Low From 1,000 feet AGL up to and including 18,000 feet AGL at radial distances out
Altitude) to 40 NM.
From 1,000 feet AGL up to and including 14,500 feet AGL at radial distances out
H (High to 40 NM. From 14,500 AGL up to and including 60,000 feet at radial distances
Altitude) out to 100 NM. From 18,000 feet AGL up to and including 45,000 feet AGL at
radial distances out to 130 NM.

[edit] VORs, Airways and the Enroute Structure

The Avenal VORTAC shown on a sectional aeronautical chart. Notice the light blue Victor
Airways radiating from the VORTAC. (click to enlarge)
VOR and the older NDB stations were traditionally used as intersections along airways. A
typical airway will hop from station to station in straight lines. As you fly in a commercial
airliner you will notice that the aircraft flies in straight lines occasionally broken by a turn to a
new course. These turns are often made as the aircraft passes over a VOR station or at an
intersection in the air defined by one or more VORs. Navigational reference points can also be
defined by the point at which two radials from different VOR stations intersect, or by a VOR
radial and a DME distance. This is the basic form of RNAV and allows navigation to points
located away from VOR stations. As RNAV systems have become more common, in particular
those based upon GPS, more and more airways have been defined by such points, removing the
need for some of the expensive ground-based VORs. A recent development is that, in some
airspace, the need for such points to be defined with reference to VOR ground stations has been
removed. This has led to predictions that VORs will be obsolete within a decade or so. There are
three types of VORs: High Altitude, Low Altitude and Terminal. The range of the three differ.
Terminal VORs are accurate to 25 NM outward up to 12,000 ft.

In many countries there are two separate systems of airway at lower and higher levels: the lower
Airways (known in the US as Victor Airways) and Upper Air Routes (known in the US as Jet

Most aircraft equipped for instrument flight (IFR) have at least two VOR receivers. As well as
providing a backup to the primary receiver, the second receiver allows the pilot to easily follow a
radial toward one VOR station while watching the second receiver to see when a certain radial
from another VOR station is crossed, essentially seeing when a particular fix is crossed.

[edit] Future

VORTAC located on Upper Table Rock in Jackson County, Oregon

It's likely that space-based navigational systems such as the Global Positioning System (GPS),
which have a lower transmitter cost per customer, will eventually replace VOR systems[6] and
many other forms of aircraft radio navigation currently in use. Low VOR receiver cost is likely
to extend VOR dominance in aircraft, until space receiver cost falls to a comparable level. The
VOR signal has the advantage of weather tolerance and static mapping to local terrain. Future
satellite navigation systems, such as the European Union Galileo, and GPS augmentation
systems are developing techniques to eventually equal or exceed VOR signals. As of 2008 in the
United States, GPS-based approaches outnumber VOR-based approaches and VOR-equipped
IFR aircraft outnumber GPS-equipped IFR aircraft.
[edit] Technical Specification
The VOR signal encodes a morse code indentifer, optional voice, and a pair of navigation tones.
The radial azimuth is equal to the phase angle between the lagging and leading navigation tone.

[edit] Constants

Standard[2] modulation modes, indices, and frequencies

Description Formula Notes Min Nom Max Units
on 1
off 0
Mi A3 modulation index 0.07
Fi A1 subcarrier frequency 1020 Hz
a(t) -1 +1
Ma A3 modulation index 0.30
navigation Fn A0 tone frequency 30 Hz
variable Mn A3 modulation index 0.30
Md A3 modulation index 0.30
reference Fs F3 subcarrier frequency 9960 Hz
Fd F3 subcarrier deviation 480 Hz
Fc A3 carrier frequency 108.00 117.95 MHz
carrier spacing 50 50 kHz
speed of light C 299.79 Mm/s
radial azimuth A relative to magnetic north 0 359 deg

[edit] Variables

Description Formula Notes
t center transmitter
time signal left t+(A,t) higher frequency revolving transmitter
t-(A,t) lower frequency revolving transmitter
c(t) isotropic
signal strength g(A,t) anisotropic
e(A,t) received

[edit] CVOR
Conventional VOR
red(F3-) green(F3) blue(F3+)
black(A3-) gray(A3) white(A3+)

The conventional signal encodes the station identifier, i(t), optional voice a(t), and navigation
reference signal in, c(t), the isotropic (i.e. omnidirectional) component. The reference signal is
encoded on an F3 subcarrier (color). The navigation variable signal is encoded by mechanically
or electrically rotating a directional, g(A,t), antenna to produce A3 modulation (grayscale).
Receivers (paired color and grayscale trace) in different directions from the station paint a
different alignment of F3 and A3 demodulated signal.

[edit] DVOR

Doppler VOR
red(F3-) green(F3) blue(F3+)
black(A3-) gray(A3) white(A3+)
USB transmitter offset is exaggerated
LSB transmitter is not shown
The doppler signal encodes the station identifier, i(t), optional voice, a(t), and navigation
variable signal in, c(t), an isotropic (i.e. omnidirectional) component. The navigation variable
signal is A3 modulated (grayscale). The navigation reference signal is delayed, t+, t-, by
electrically revolving a pair of transmitters. The cyclic blue shift, and corresponding red shift, as
a transmitter closes on and recedes from the receiver results in F3 modulation (color). The
pairing of transmitters offset equally high and low of the isotropic carrier frequency produce the
upper and lower sidebands. Closing and receding equally on opposite sides of the same circle
around the isotropic transmitter produce F3 subcarrier modulation, g(A,t).

where the revolution radius R = Fd C / (2 π Fn Fc ) is 6.76 ± 0.3 m .

The transmitter acceleration 4 π2 Fn2 R, 24 KG, makes mechanical revolution impractical, and
halves (gravitational redshift) the frequency change ratio compared to transmitters in freefall.

[edit] Accuracy and Reliability

The predictable accuracy of the VOR system is ±1.4°. However, test data indicate that 99.94% of
the time a VOR system has less than ±0.35° of error. Internal monitoring of a VOR station will
shut it down, or change-over to a Standby system if the station error exceeds some limit. A
Doppler VOR beacon will typically change-over or shutdown when the bearing accuracy
exceeds 1.0°.[2] National air space authorities may often set tighter limits. For instance, in
Australia, a Primary Alarm limit may be set as low as +/- 0.5 degrees on some Doppler VOR

ARINC 711 – 10 January 30, 2002 states that receiver accuracy should be within 0.4 degrees
with a statistical probability of 95% under various conditions. Any receiver compliant to this
standard should meet or exceed these tolerances.

All radio navigation beacons are required to monitor their own output. Most have redundant
systems, so that the failure of one system, will cause automatic change-over to one or more
standby systems. The monitoring and redundancy requirements in some Instrument Landing
Systems (ILS) can be very high.
The general philosophy followed is that no signal is better than a bad signal.

VOR beacons monitor themselves by having one or more receiving antennas located away from
the beacon. The signals from these antennas are processed to monitor many aspects of the
signals. The signals monitored are defined in various US and European standards. The principal
standard is European Organisation for Civil Aviation Equipment (EuroCAE) Standard ED-52.
The five main parameters monitored are the bearing accuracy, the reference and variable signal
modulation indices, the signal level, and the presence of notches (caused by individual antenna

Note that the signals received by these antennas, in a Doppler VOR beacon, are different from
the signals received by an aircraft. This is because the antennas are close to the transmitter and
are affected by proximity effects. For example the free space path loss from nearby sideband
antennas will be 1.5dB different (at 113 MHz and at a distance of 80 m) from the signals
received from the far side sideband antennas. For a distant aircraft there will be no measurable
difference. Similarly the peak rate of phase change seen by a receiver is from the tangential
antennas. For the aircraft these tangential paths will be almost parallel, but this is not the case for
an antenna near the DVOR.

The bearing accuracy specification for all VOR beacons is defined in the International Civil
Aviation Organisation Convention on International Civil Aviation Annex 10, Volume 1.

This document sets the worst case bearing accuracy performance on a Conventional VOR
(CVOR) to be +/- 4 degrees. A Doppler VOR (DVOR) is required to be +/- 1 degree.

All radio-navigation beacons are checked periodically to ensure that they are performing to the
appropriate International and National standards. This includes VOR beacons, Distance
Measuring Equipment (DME), Instrument Landing Systems (ILS), and Non-Directional Beacons

Their performance is measured by aircraft fitted with test equipment. The VOR test procedure is
to fly around the beacon in circles at defined distances and altitudes, and also along several
radials. These aircraft measure signal strength, the modulation indices of the reference and
variable signals, and the bearing error. They will also measure other selected parameters, as
requested by local/national airspace authorities. Note that the same procedure is used (often in
the same flight test) to check Distance Measuring Equipment (DME).

In practice, bearing errors can often exceed those defined in Annex 10, in some directions. This
is usually due to terrain effects, buildings near the VOR, or, in the case of a DVOR, some
counterpoise effects. Note that Doppler VOR beacons utilise an elevated groundplane that is
used to elevate the effective antenna pattern. It creates a strong lobe at an elevation angle of 30
degrees which complements the zero degree lobe of the antennas themselves. This groundplane
is called a counterpoise. A counterpoise though, rarely works exactly as one would hope. For
example, the edge of the counterpoise can absorb and re-radiate signals from the antennas, and it
may tend to do this differently in some directions than others.
National air space authorities will accept these bearing errors when they occur along directions
that are not the defined air traffic routes. For example in mountainous areas, the VOR may only
provide sufficient signal strength and bearing accuracy, along one runway approach path.

Doppler VOR beacons are inherently more accurate than Conventional VORs because they are
more immune to reflections from hills and buildings. The variable signal, in a DVOR, is the
30Hz FM signal. In a CVOR it is the 30Hz AM signal. If the AM signal from a CVOR beacon,
bounces off a building or hill, the aircraft will see a phase that appears to be at the phase centre
of the main signal and the reflected signal, and this phase centre will move as the beam rotates.
In a DVOR beacon, the variable signal will, if reflected, seem to be two FM signals of unequal
strengths and different phases. Twice per 30Hz cycle, the instantaneous deviation of the two
signals will be the same, and the phase locked loop will get (briefly) confused. As the two
instantaneous deviations drift apart again, the phase locked loop will follow the signal with the
greatest strength, which should be that due to the line-of-sight signal. When the phase separation
of the two deviations, though is close, the phase locked loop will become "confused" for greater
and greater percentages of the 30Hz cycle. This will depend on the bandwidth of the output of
the phase comparator in the aircraft. Hence some reflections can cause minor problems, but these
are usually about an order of magnitude less than in a CVOR beacon.

[edit] Using a VOR

If a pilot wants to approach the VOR station from due east then the aircraft will have to fly due
west to reach the station. The pilot will use the OBS to rotate the compass dial until the number
27 (270 degrees) aligns with the pointer (called the Primary Index) at the top of the dial. When
the aircraft intercepts the 90-degree radial (due east of the VOR station) the needle will be
centered and the To/From indicator will show "To". Notice that the pilot sets the VOR to
indicate the reciprocal; the aircraft will follow the 90-degree radial while the VOR indicates that
the course "to" the VOR station is 270 degrees. This is called "proceeding inbound on the 090
radial." The pilot needs only to keep the needle centered to follow the course to the VOR station.
If the needle drifts off-center the aircraft would be turned towards the needle until it is centered
again. After the aircraft passes over the VOR station the To/From indicator will indicate "From"
and the aircraft is then proceeding outbound on the 270 degree radial. The CDI needle may
oscillate or go to full scale in the "cone of confusion" directly over the station but will recenter
once the aircraft has flown a short distance beyond the station.
In the illustration on the right, notice that the heading ring is set with 360 degrees (North) at the
primary index, the needle is centred and the To/From indicator is showing "TO". The VOR is
indicating that the aircraft is on the 360 degree course (North) to the VOR station (i.e. the aircraft
is South of the VOR station). If the To/From indicator were showing "From" it would mean the
aircraft was on the 360 degree radial from the VOR station (i.e. the aircraft is North of the VOR).
Note that there is absolutely no indication of what direction the aircraft is flying. The aircraft
could be flying due West and this snapshot of the VOR could be the moment when it crossed the
360 degree radial. (VOR Simulator)

[edit] Testing

Before using a VOR indicator for the first time, it can be tested and calibrated at an airport with a
VOR test facility, or VOT. A VOT differs from a VOR in that it replaces the variable directional
signal with another omnidirectional signal, in a sense transmitting a 360° radial in all directions.
The NAV receiver is tuned to the VOT frequency, then the OBS is rotated until the needle is
centered. If the indicator reads within four degrees of 000 with the FROM flag visible or 180
with the TO flag visible, it is considered usable for navigation. The FAA requires testing and
calibration of a VOR indicator no more than 30 days before any flight under IFR.[7]

[edit] Positive Sensing and Reverse Sensing

The term positive sensing is used when the pilot turns in the direction of needle deflection and
the needle centers up. On the opposite side, the term reverse sensing is when the pilot turns in the
direction of the needle and the needle deflects farther away from the center. Many student pilots
are convinced that positive sensing occurs when the aircraft is traveling towards the VOR station
and once passed becomes reverse sensing. This is not the case and positive sensing is quite easy
to identify as well as reverse sensing. Thus positive sensing can be identified by this equation. If
the current heading of the airplane is found on the top half of the VOR indicator, the pilot is
assured of positive sensing. If the current heading is on the bottom half of the VOR indicator,
reverse sensing is in order.

Using a standard method to intercept a VOR radial will decrease the chances of a pilot flying
with reverse sensing. This phenomenon has nothing to do with how a VOR indicator works but
how the human mind interprets the indications.

[edit] Intercepting VOR Radials

Aircraft in NW quadrant with VOR indicator shading heading from 360 to 090 degrees

There are many methods available to determine what heading to fly to intercept a radial from the
station or a course to the station. The most common method involves the acronym T-I-T-P-I-T.
The acronym stands for Tune - Identify - Twist - Parallel - Intercept - Track. Each of these steps
are quite important to ensure the airplane is headed where it is being directed. First, tune the
desired VOR frequency into the navigation radio, second and most important, Identify the
correct VOR station by verifying the morse code heard with the sectional chart. Third, twist the
VOR OBS knob to the desired radial (FROM) or course (TO) the station. Fourth, bank the
airplane till the heading indicator indicates the radial or course set in the VOR. The fifth step is
to fly towards the needle. If the needle is to the left, turn left by 30-45 degrees and vice versa.
The last step is once the VOR needle is centered, turn the heading of the airplane back to the
radial or course to track down the radial or course flown. If there is wind, a wind correction angle
will be necessary to maintain the VOR needle centered.

Another method to intercept a VOR radial exists and more closely aligns itself with the operation
of an HSI (Horizontal Situation Indicator). The first three steps above are the same; tune, identify
and twist. At this point, the VOR needle should be displaced to either the left or the right.
Looking at the VOR indicator, the numbers on the same side as the needle will always be the
headings needed to return the needle back to center. The aircraft heading should then be turned
to align itself with one of those shaded headings. If done properly, this method will never
produce reverse sensing.

A good example is this, an airplane is traveling in the northwest quadrant in relation to the VOR.
The exact VOR radial the aircraft is on is 315 degrees. After tuning, identifying and twisting the
OBS knob to 360 degrees, the needle deflects to the right. The needle shades the numbers
between 360 and 090. If the airplane turns to a heading anywhere in this range, the airplane will
intercept the radial.

How is reverse sensing negated using this method? In the previous exercise, if the airplane was
flying a heading of 180 degrees, the needle will still deflect right showing the correct headings to
fly but from the pilot's perspective it will seem to indicate a turn westerly. The pilot should turn
left even though the needle points right, as it is a shorter turn to a heading of 045 degrees to
intercept the radial.
Using this method will ensure quick understanding of how an HSI works as the HSI visually
shows what we are mentally trying to do. Try out Luiz Monteiro's website on VOR's to confirm
this methods.

Algebra II: Strand 7. Conic Sections; Topic 4. Applications of Conic Sections; Task
December 20, 2004. Ensuring Teacher Quality: Algebra II, produced by the Charles A. Dana Center at
The University of Texas
at Austin for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
LORAN (Long Range Navigation) system is used to help navigators locate
ships or planes. The Long Range Navigational system uses three
broadcasting stations to determine the location of ships at sea. The stations
send out a pulse. The navigator of the ship receives the pulses and
determines the times taken to receive the signal. The distances from the
three stations to the ship
can be determined.
Three broadcasting stations are located at the points A, B, and C. A is located
200 miles east of B. C is located 300 miles south of B. The navigator sends a
pulse and finds the followingdistances:
Point A B C
Distance from Ship 209.6 miles 369.6 miles 569.6 miles
The stations are taken in pairs to serve as the foci of a hyperbola. The
difference in the
distances locates the ship on a hyperbola. The same calculations are taken
using a different pairof stations. The second hyperbola is determined. The
location of the ship is the intersection of the two hyperbolas. Find the
equation of a hyperbola using A and B as the foci. Then write theequation of
a second hyperbola using B and C as the foci. Use a graphing calculator
todetermine the location of the ship.