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Kali & Kamille Watkins Present Research on Celestial Navigation

  • Upper School

Congratulations to Kali '22 and Kamille '23  Watkins, who presented their independent research on celestial navigation at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Young Professionals, Students and Educators (YPSE) virtual conference.

Kali and Kamille conducted their independent research over the summer and were accepted to present at the virtual conference which took place on October 16. Their research aimed to design a smartphone app that would utilize celestial navigation rather than GPS navigation for travel.

The sisters surveyed multiple smartphone applications to see if any of the apps could be used to determine longitude and latitude from celestial bodies. They found that while a couple came close, none surveyed actually allowed the user to determine location by using celestial bodies.

From there, they designed a plan for a navigational app that would operate independently of GPS or cell towers, using celestial navigation to determine latitude and longitude.

From Kali and Kamille, "Currently, GPS navigation is the standard for land and sea travel; however, because of the threat of GPS spoofing or GPS jamming, our modern day means of navigation is at risk. Celestial navigation is an old process that utilizes a compass, sextant and the sun and does not depend on GPS or any other modern technology. While this method can be accurate, it is time consuming and can be an error-prone task. We propose to make this process more efficient and accurate by designing a smartphone application that can be used to automatically identify celestial targets and accurately track the time and thus produce accurate longitude and latitude measurements. We see this as an initial step toward developing an autonomous celestial navigator, which has been desired by the military and industry for quite some time."

The AIAA is a professional organization dedicated to shaping the future of aerospace through a global network of aeronautic and astronautic professionals, conferences, forums and cutting edge publications. The Mid-Atlantic Section is one local community within AIAA, spanning potions of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. The YPSE Conference is the Mid-Atlantic Section's main event each year with the goal of bringing together students, educators and young professionals from around the region to share their work and make connections within the broader aerospace industry.