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US Air Force to explore navigating with magnetism

June 16, 2020  - By
Two F-16 Fighting Falcons fly over Edwards AFB during a 2009 air show. (Photo: U.S. Air Force/Chad Bellay)

Two F-16 Fighting Falcons fly over Edwards AFB during a 2009 air show. (Photo: U.S. Air Force/Chad Bellay)

The U.S. Air Force in September will begin testing on F-16’s an alternative position, navigation and timing (PNT) solution that uses the Earth’s magnetic anomalies.

The navigation technique, dubbed MAGNAV, is being researched at the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT), reports Forbes.

Air Force Major Aaron J. Canciani, an Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering at AFIT, designed algorithms for MAGNAV flight testing on F-16s. Testing has already taken place using private survey aircraft.

MAGNAV sensors and software will be flown on Air Force Test Pilot School (AFTPS) F-16s over a special test range adjacent to Edwards Air Force Base in Nevada.

Magnetic anomaly navigation uses scalar magnetometer sensors that measure differences in the magnitude of magnetic fields when traveling past them. These variations can be compared with known features in magnetic field maps and be interpreted to determine position.

The four pillars of MAGNAV are magnetic maps, sensors, algorithms and calibration. The magnetic maps already exist within industry, the military and government agencies including NOAA, NASA, NGA and more.

NOAA’s EMAG2 (v3) World Digital Magnetic Anomaly Map. (Image: NOAA National Geophysical Data Center)

NOAA’s EMAG2 (v3) World Digital Magnetic Anomaly Map. (Image: NOAA National Geophysical Data Center)

About the Author:


Senior Editor Tracy Cozzens joined GPS World magazine in 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.

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