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Concept: Navigation


Ants can navigate over long distances between their nest and food sites using visual cues [1, 2]. Recent studies show that this capacity is undiminished when walking backward while dragging a heavy food item [3-5]. This challenges the idea that ants use egocentric visual memories of the scene for guidance [1, 2, 6]. Can ants use their visual memories of the terrestrial cues when going backward? Our results suggest that ants do not adjust their direction of travel based on the perceived scene while going backward. Instead, they maintain a straight direction using their celestial compass. This direction can be dictated by their path integrator [5] but can also be set using terrestrial visual cues after a forward peek. If the food item is too heavy to enable body rotations, ants moving backward drop their food on occasion, rotate and walk a few steps forward, return to the food, and drag it backward in a now-corrected direction defined by terrestrial cues. Furthermore, we show that ants can maintain their direction of travel independently of their body orientation. It thus appears that egocentric retinal alignment is required for visual scene recognition, but ants can translate this acquired directional information into a holonomic frame of reference, which enables them to decouple their travel direction from their body orientation and hence navigate backward. This reveals substantial flexibility and communication between different types of navigational information: from terrestrial to celestial cues and from egocentric to holonomic directional memories.

Concepts: Earth, Navigation, Classical mechanics, Rotation, Walking, Rigid body, Frame of reference, Drag-and-drop


Dead-reckoning (DR) algorithms, which use self-contained inertial sensors combined with gait analysis, have proven to be effective for pedestrian navigation purposes. In such DR systems, the primary error is often due to accumulated heading drifts. By tightly integrating global navigation satellite system (GNSS) Doppler measurements with DR, such accumulated heading errors can usually be accurately compensated. Under weak signal conditions, high sensitivity GNSS (HSGNSS) receivers with block processing techniques are often used, however, the Doppler quality of such receivers is relatively poor due to multipath, fading and signal attenuation. This often limits the benefits of integrating HSGNSS Doppler with DR. This paper investigates the benefits of using Doppler measurements from a novel direct vector HSGNSS receiver with pedestrian dead-reckoning (PDR) for indoor navigation. An indoor signal and multipath model is introduced which explains how conventional HSGNSS Doppler measurements are affected by indoor multipath. Velocity and Doppler estimated by using direct vector receivers are introduced and discussed. Real experimental data is processed and analyzed to assess the veracity of proposed method. It is shown when integrating HSGNSS Doppler with PDR algorithm, the proposed direct vector method are more helpful than conventional block processing method for the indoor environments considered herein.

Concepts: Algorithm, Navigation, Global Positioning System, Dead reckoning, Satellite navigation system, Global navigation satellite system, Satellite navigation systems, Fading


In late December 2015, widespread media interest revolved around forecasts that the surface air temperature at the North Pole would rise above freezing. Although there has been significant interest in the enhanced warming that is occurring at high northern latitudes, a process known as arctic amplification, remarkably little is known about these midwinter warming events at the pole including their frequency, duration and magnitude as well as the environmental conditions responsible for their occurrence. Here we use buoy and radiosonde data along with operational weather forecasts and atmospheric reanalyses to show that such events are associated with surface cyclones near the pole as well as a highly perturbed polar vortex. They occur once or twice each decade with the earliest identified event taking place in 1959. In addition, the warmest midwinter temperatures at the North Pole have been increasing at a rate that is twice as large as that for mean midwinter temperatures at the pole. It is argued that this enhanced trend is consistent with the loss of winter sea ice from the Nordic Seas that moves the reservoir of warm air over this region northwards making it easier for weather systems to transport this heat polewards.

Concepts: Earth, Heat, Navigation, Arctic Ocean, North Pole, Weather forecasting, Latitude, Polar bear


Spoofing is becoming a serious threat to various Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) applications, especially for those that require high reliability and security such as power grid synchronization and applications related to first responders and aviation safety. Most current works on anti-spoofing focus on spoofing detection from the individual receiver side, which identifies spoofing when it is under an attack. This paper proposes a novel spoofing network monitoring (SNM) mechanism aiming to reveal the presence of spoofing within an area. Consisting of several receivers and one central processing component, it keeps detecting spoofing even when the network is not attacked. The mechanism is based on the different time difference of arrival (TDOA) properties between spoofing and authentic signals. Normally, TDOAs of spoofing signals from a common spoofer are identical while those of authentic signals from diverse directions are dispersed. The TDOA is measured as the differential pseudorange to carrier frequency ratio (DPF). In a spoofing case, the DPFs include those of both authentic and spoofing signals, among which the DPFs of authentic are dispersed while those of spoofing are almost overlapped. An algorithm is proposed to search for the DPFs that are within a pre-defined small range, and an alarm will be raised if several DPFs are found within such range. The proposed SNM methodology is validated by simulations and a partial field trial. Results show 99.99% detection and 0.01% false alarm probabilities are achieved. The SNM has the potential to be adopted in various applications such as (1) alerting dedicated users when spoofing is occurring, which could significantly shorten the receiver side spoofing cost; (2) in combination with GNSS performance monitoring systems, such as the Continuous Operating Reference System (CORS) and GNSS Availability, Accuracy, Reliability anD Integrity Assessment for Timing and Navigation (GAARDIAN) System, to provide more reliable monitoring services.

Concepts: Detection theory, Reliability, Navigation, Global Positioning System, Satellite navigation system, Global navigation satellite system, Satellite navigation systems, Differential GPS


How animals navigate the constantly moving and visually uniform pelagic realm, often along straight paths between distant sites, is an enduring mystery. The mechanisms enabling pelagic navigation in cartilaginous fishes are particularly understudied. We used shoreward navigation by leopard sharks (Triakis semifasciata) as a model system to test whether olfaction contributes to pelagic navigation. Leopard sharks were captured alongshore, transported 9 km offshore, released, and acoustically tracked for approximately 4 h each until the transmitter released. Eleven sharks were rendered anosmic (nares occluded with cotton wool soaked in petroleum jelly); fifteen were sham controls. Mean swimming depth was 28.7 m. On average, tracks of control sharks ended 62.6% closer to shore, following relatively straight paths that were significantly directed over spatial scales exceeding 1600 m. In contrast, tracks of anosmic sharks ended 37.2% closer to shore, following significantly more tortuous paths that approximated correlated random walks. These results held after swimming paths were adjusted for current drift. This is the first study to demonstrate experimentally that olfaction contributes to pelagic navigation in sharks, likely mediated by chemical gradients as has been hypothesized for birds. Given the similarities between the fluid three-dimensional chemical atmosphere and ocean, further research comparing swimming and flying animals may lead to a unifying paradigm explaining their extraordinary navigational abilities.

Concepts: Fish, Bird, Navigation, Ocean, Shark, Pelagic zone, Navigator, Leopard shark


Echolocating bats have excellent spatial memory and are able to navigate to salient locations using bio-sonar. Navigating and route-following require animals to recognize places. Currently, it is mostly unknown how bats recognize places using echolocation. In this paper, we propose template based place recognition might underlie sonar-based navigation in bats. Under this hypothesis, bats recognize places by remembering their echo signature - rather than their 3D layout. Using a large body of ensonification data collected in three different habitats, we test the viability of this hypothesis assessing two critical properties of the proposed echo signatures: (1) they can be uniquely classified and (2) they vary continuously across space. Based on the results presented, we conclude that the proposed echo signatures satisfy both criteria. We discuss how these two properties of the echo signatures can support navigation and building a cognitive map.

Concepts: Space, Animal echolocation, Navigation, Bat, Sonar, Microbat, Bats, Navigator


Numerous flying and swimming animals constantly need to control their heading (that is, their direction of orientation) in a flow to reach their distant destination. However, animal orientation in a flow has yet to be satisfactorily explained because it is difficult to directly measure animal heading and flow. We constructed a new animal movement model based on the asymmetric distribution of the GPS (Global Positioning System) track vector along its mean vector, which might be caused by wind flow. This statistical model enabled us to simultaneously estimate animal heading (navigational decision-making) and ocean wind information over the range traversed by free-ranging birds. We applied this method to the tracking data of homing seabirds. The wind flow estimated by the model was consistent with the spatiotemporally coarse wind information provided by an atmospheric simulation model. The estimated heading information revealed that homing seabirds could head in a direction different from that leading to the colony to offset wind effects and to enable them to eventually move in the direction they intended to take, even though they are over the open sea where visual cues are unavailable. Our results highlight the utility of combining large data sets of animal movements with the “inverse problem approach,” enabling unobservable causal factors to be estimated from the observed output data. This approach potentially initiates a new era of analyzing animal decision-making in the field.

Concepts: Statistics, Mathematics, Bird, Navigation, Ocean, Global Positioning System, Global navigation satellite system, GPS


To navigate, animals need to represent not only their own position and orientation, but also the location of their goal. Neural representations of an animal’s own position and orientation have been extensively studied. However, it is unknown how navigational goals are encoded in the brain. We recorded from hippocampal CA1 neurons of bats flying in complex trajectories toward a spatial goal. We discovered a subpopulation of neurons with angular tuning to the goal direction. Many of these neurons were tuned to an occluded goal, suggesting that goal-direction representation is memory-based. We also found cells that encoded the distance to the goal, often in conjunction with goal direction. The goal-direction and goal-distance signals make up a vectorial representation of spatial goals, suggesting a previously unrecognized neuronal mechanism for goal-directed navigation.

Concepts: Nervous system, Neuron, Brain, Human brain, Cerebral cortex, Hippocampus, Navigation


Animals navigate their environment using a variety of senses and strategies. This multiplicity enables them to respond to different navigational requirements resulting from habitat, scale and purpose. One of the challenges social animals face is how to reunite after periods of separation. We explore a variety of possible mechanisms used to reunite the members of a cheetah coalition dispersed within a large area after prolonged separation. Using GPS data from three cheetahs reuniting after weeks of separation, we determined that 1) the likelihood of purely coincidental reunion is miniscule 2) the reunion occurred in an area not normally frequented 3) with very little time spent in the region in advance of the reunion. We therefore propose that timely encounter of scent markings where paths cross is the most likely mechanism used to aid the reunion.

Concepts: English-language films, Navigation, Lion, Global Positioning System, Cheetah, GPS, Geodesy, Longitude


Audio-based Environment Simulator (AbES) is virtual environment software designed to improve real world navigation skills in the blind. Using only audio based cues and set within the context of a video game metaphor, users gather relevant spatial information regarding a building’s layout. This allows the user to develop an accurate spatial cognitive map of a large-scale three-dimensional space that can be manipulated for the purposes of a real indoor navigation task. After game play, participants are then assessed on their ability to navigate within the target physical building represented in the game. Preliminary results suggest that early blind users were able to acquire relevant information regarding the spatial layout of a previously unfamiliar building as indexed by their performance on a series of navigation tasks. These tasks included path finding through the virtual and physical building, as well as a series of drop off tasks. We find that the immersive and highly interactive nature of the AbES software appears to greatly engage the blind user to actively explore the virtual environment. Applications of this approach may extend to larger populations of visually impaired individuals.

Concepts: Dimension, Navigation, Virtual reality, Play, Visual impairment, Video game, The Blind