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Background: Various methods have been proposed for sampling when data on the population are limited. However, these methods are often biased. We propose a new method to draw a population sample using Global Positioning Systems and aerial or satellite photographs.

Results: We randomly sampled Global Positioning System locations in designated areas. A circle was drawn around each location with radius representing 20 m. Buildings in the circle were identified from satellite photographs; one was randomly chosen. Interviewers selected one household from the building, and interviews were conducted with eligible household members.

Conclusions: Participants had known selection probabilities, allowing proper estimation of parameters of interest and their variances. The approach was made possible by recent technological developments and access to satellite photographs.

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This document was originally published in Emerging Themes in Epidemiology. This work is provided under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license. Details regarding the use of this work can be found at: DOI:10.1186/1742-7622-9-5