Geophysical Centre in Dourbes


Terrestrial and Seafloor Automated Magnetic Observatories for advancing the measurement of the Earth's magnetic field (MAGQUEST)

MagQuest is a technological innovation challenge for collecting geomagnetic data aimed at improving the global geomagnetic model (WMM - World Magnetic Model). The WMM is ubiquitous. Over a billion smartphone users utilize it unconsciously through mobile navigation apps. Similarly, in-car navigation software relies on the WMM. The WMM is also critical for many military and commercial uses. Examples include aiding in the navigation and orientation of submarines, satellites, and aircraft, marking runways at airports, and numerous industrial applications in the fields of energy and telecommunications.

This map presents the values of magnetic declination worldwide at the beginning of 2019 according to the WMM. This model is based on geomagnetic data collected by satellites (currently the ESA Swarm mission) and magnetic observatories (which cover the Earth very imperfectly).

What is the solution proposed by RMI?

The solution presented by RMI in the scope of MagQuest is to globally deploy the technology of automatic magnetic observatories designed and patented by the RMI Centre de Physique du Globe. The automatic magnetic observatory integrates three geomagnetic instruments: a scalar magnetometer, a vector magnetometer, and an automatic DIFlux (AutoDIF) to automate vector calibration. The processing and satellite transmission of the data to the RMI Centre de Physique du Globe are automated and ensured in real-time.

The RMI automatic magnetic observatory was validated by several months of uninterrupted operations in a desert area.

To win the first phase of this competition, RMI submitted a technological description supported by various operational examples. To win the second round of this competition, RMI submitted a much more detailed solution. In particular, it was necessary to describe the technology for deploying and operating observatories on ocean floors and to establish the geographical distribution of the network of automatic magnetic observatories in order to meet the WMM's accuracy requirements. To ensure the necessary marinization developments and to have a partner capable of operating in the particularly remote oceanic regions of our network, RMI collaborated with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI, USA).

The network proposed by RMI includes 4 new seafloor observatories (light blue) and 99 land-based observatories: 66 existing Intermagnet observatories (red), 12 non-Intermagnet observatories (dark blue circled in red), and 21 new land-based observatories (purple).

RMI, along with its partner WHOI, is one of the 6 teams to have reached phase 3 of this competition organized by the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (USA). This award recognizes our expertise in geomagnetic instrumentation and contributes to the reputation of RMI. To learn more about this competition, our solution, and those of the other finalists, more details can be found here.

Funding: Awards funded by the US National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, Phase 3 winner (2019 - 2020)

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