SkyPole - A bio-inspired method to locate the north celestial pole

  • Kronland-Martinet Thomas
  • Poughon Léo
  • Pasquinelli Marcel
  • Duché David
  • Serres Julien
  • Viollet Stéphane

  • Celestial navigation
  • Celestial compass
  • Polarized vision
  • Geolocation
  • GPS-denied environment


On Earth, geographic north can be determined in three ways: by magnetic compass, by the stars or by using Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS). Each of these systems has its own drawbacks. For example, GNSS are susceptible to jamming or spoofing, magnetic compasses can be subject to magnetic interference, and stars can only be used at night. As an alternative to these methods, certain signals used by animals to navigate are proving to be of particular interest. For example, sky polarization, used by insects such as Cataglyphis ants, has proved useful for navigation applications. In addition, some migratory birds use celestial rotation to calibrate their magnetic night compasses. By combining this information, we have developed a bio-inspired method for finding the position of the celestial pole by day. We then deduce our geographic north and latitude. The special feature of this method is that it requires no source of information other than polarized sky light. With regard to the environmental aspects of our research, two points are worth mentioning. Firstly, as our method is based solely on visual information, no GNSS-type signal is required, and the simplicity of this method results in low computational costs and the usability of the system.