The US Air Force (USAF) has announced the successful completion of real-time magnetic navigation (MagNav) trial aboard the C-17A Globemaster III aircraft.

The test was performed by the US Department of Air Force (DAF) – Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Artificial Intelligence Accelerator (AIA), as part of the MagNav project.

It was supported by the personnel from the Air Force Research Laboratory Sensors Directorate, MIT, MIT Lincoln Laboratory and the Air Force Institute of Technology Autonomy and Navigation Center.

The latest trial was carried out during exercise Golden Phoenix, which was held between 11 and 15 May from the test complex at Travis Air Force Base (AFB) in California, US.

With this milestone, the US DAF has become the first organisation to complete this demonstration in real-time aboard a Department of Defense’s (DoD) aircraft.

The MgNav team leveraged AI and machine learning capabilities from AIA’s calibration and positioning neural network and transferred learnings from AI models, based on previously gathered C-17 transport aircraft’s data, to expedite entire neural network training process.

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During this trial, the team took support from various contributors from across the globe formed through the Magnetic Navigation Open Challenge.

The collaborative effort enhanced AIA’s neural network architecture, which helps in eliminating magnetic noise created by aircraft to identify position, through comparison to a known magnetic map.

The team is expected to submit a technical report to the US government that will further deliver other details on the system’s navigation preciseness.

It will also help the DoD to use this technology for other aircraft and platforms, such as small uncrewed aerial systems, hypersonic glide vehicles and submarines.

AIA MagNav liaison major Kyle McAlpin said: “Our strategy documents lament the DoD’s over-reliance on GPS, a single point of failure in our ability to navigate precisely.

“The next fight demands unassailable positioning and navigation.

“We can achieve that by augmenting GPS with alternatives like celestial navigation, signals of opportunity, visual navigation, and magnetic navigation.”