Military researchers ask industry for enabling technologies in magnetic navigation for GPS-denied uses

June 1, 2023
DARPA wants to improve understanding of the state of the art and the emerging technologies available for magnetic navigation in noisy RF environments.

ARLINGTON, Va. – U.S. military navigation and guidance experts are reaching out to industry for new enabling technologies for magnetic navigation in GPS-denied environments.

Officials of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., issued a request for information (DARPA-SN-23-70) last Friday for the Advances in Magnetic Navigation project.

Experts in the DARPA Microsystems Technology Office want to improve their understanding of the state of the art and the emerging technologies available to meet magnetic navigation requirements for high-noise operational and environmental conditions.

Magnetometers can measure the combination of Earth’s core magnetic field, space weather effects, human-made infrastructure, and the relatively small variations in Earth’s magnetic field due to mineral deposits and other geographic features of Earth’s crust.

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Comparing variations in Earth’s magnetic field to a stored local map helps enable accurate position determination, but is limited by platform noise and the quality of available maps.

Accurate magnetic navigation requires people, vehicles, ships, and aircraft to be moving relative to the Earth’s crust, and also requires not only a magnetic compass, but also an inertial navigation system, which is prone to systemic drift over time.

Magnetic maps, moreover, are generated from surveys performed at fixed altitudes, which can compromise aircraft navigational accuracy at different altitudes. On the ground, local magnetic sources can disrupt the navigation.

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The best altitude for magnetic navigation is around 1,600 feet, which is high enough that human signals are negligible but still low enough to generate detailed spatial information.

To overcome some of these issues, DARPA researchers would like to learn about recent technological innovations that can lead to enabling technologies in on-board real-time magnetic navigation in GPS-denied environments.

Of interest are systems small enough for unmanned aircraft, unmanned submarines, and missiles; the ability to isolate or remove platform and environmental magnetic noise with shielding or calibration; and systems that can overcome limitations of existing magnetic maps.

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Researchers especially are interested in chip-scale magnetic navigation devices with high-sensitivity, high-accuracy, high-stability, and rugged magnetometers, and other sensors for detecting the Earth’s magnetic field.

DARPA also is interested in software algorithms for real-time position and attitude determination -- with or without known initial position -- platform calibration, map matching, and fusion with existing on-board inertial and satellite navigation systems.

Companies interested should email responses of 15 pages or shorter no later than 6 July 2023 to DARPA at [email protected]. Email questions or concerns to DARPA's Thomas Ehrenreich at [email protected]. More information is online at

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