An Analysis of the Benefits and Difficulties of Aerial Magnetic Vector Navigation

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Recent successful flight tests have demonstrated scalar magnetic anomaly navigation to be a viable GPS-alternative navigation system. These flight tests matched magnetic field measurements to maps of the Earth's crustal magnetic field in order to navigate. Scalar magnetic navigation uses only the magnetic field intensity, not direction, in order to navigate. While it appears obvious to extend aerial magnetic navigation to use the full vector field, in practice there are substantial obstacles to doing so. This article explores the key challenges of magnetic vector navigation including current sensor limitations, lack of high frequency magnetic vector maps of the Earth's crust, and proper integration of the magnetic data with an inertial navigation system. In overcoming these challenges several key benefits of magnetic vector navigation over scalar magnetic navigation become apparent, including modestly improved navigation accuracy and greatly improved platform attitude.


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IEEE Transactions on Aerospace and Electronic Systems