525.645.81 - Modern Navigation Systems

Electrical and Computer Engineering
Spring 2024


This course explores the use of satellite, terrestrial, celestial, radio, magnetic, and inertial systems for the real-time determination of position, velocity, acceleration, and attitude. Particular emphasis is on the historical importance of navigation systems; avionics navigation systems for high performance aircraft; the Global Positioning System; the relationships between navigation, cartography, surveying, and astronomy; and emerging trends for integrating various navigation techniques into single, tightly coupled systems.


Profile photo of Daniel Jablonski.

Daniel Jablonski


Course Structure

The course materials are divided into modules which can be accessed by clicking Course Modules on the course menu. A module will have several sections including the overview, content, readings, discussions, and assignments. You are encouraged to preview all sections of the module before starting. Most modules run for a period of seven (7) days, with exceptions for holidays and vacation weeks.

Course Topics

This course explores the use of satellite, terrestrial, celestial, radio, magnetic, and inertial systems for the real-time determination of position, velocity, acceleration, and attitude. Particular emphasis is on the

The text is dated, and doesn’t cover, for example, GNSSs systems such as Galileo and Beidou. However, newer texts are specialized and do not cover the fundamental systems that are still in use, such as VOR, great circle computations, eLoran, radio/radar altimeters, etc. The algorithms, computations, map projections, ranging codes, etc. are those that have been in use for over half a century. Celestial navigation had been abandoned, for all practical purposes, decades ago, but is now considered to be a critical technology. And, mathematics never becomes obsolete, even though the code made available to utilize the mathematics, is updated often, and perhaps too often.

Information about modern systems is easily obtained online.



There are no special prerequisites. A fluency with high school trigonometry, undergraduate calculus and differential equations, and first and second year physics, including Newtonian mechanics and electromagnetics, is assumed. Look at the course catalog for the remedial undergraduate courses 525.201 and 202 to get a quick summary of the skills that an electrical engineer is expected to be able to call upon as electrical engineer in the workplace.

Course Goals

Goals: To understand how navigation systems work, how they evolved, and how they affect the design and operation of the world's communication, transportation, economic, and research and development infrastructure.


Course Learning Outcomes (CLOs)



Kayton, M. and Fried, W. (1997). Avionics navigation systems (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: WileyInterscience.

ISBN-10: 0471547956


ISBN-13: 978-0471547952


Note that international editions of the 2nd edition of the text by Kayton and Fried might be available online at a significant discount. Be careful about non-authorized editions, and do not purchase the first edition.

U.S. Naval Observatory Nautical Almanac 2022 (commercial ed.). Arcata, CA: Paradise Cay Publications.




Rey, H.A., (2008). The stars (2nd ed.) or more recent edition. Boston, MA: HMH Books for Young Readers.

ISBN-10: 0547132808


ISBN-13: 978-0547132808


Or ISBN-13 978-0-544-7343-2 (hardback edition)

Textbook information for this course is available online through the appropriate bookstore website: For online courses, search the MBS website at http://ep.jhu.edu/bookstore. Several other books of interest are listed in the Module 1 PowerPoint presentation slides. These are optional.

Other Materials & Online Resources

Nautical Almanac, Commercial edition,Amazon; The Stars, by H.A. Rey, also from Amazon

Required Software

Excel, MATLAB, or any other standard computational package will be needed for several of the assignments.


The MATLAB Total Academic Headcount (TAH) license is now in effect. This license is provided at no cost to you. Send an email to software@jhu.edu to request your license file/code. Please indicate that you need a standalone file/code. You will need to provide your first and last name, as well as your Hopkins email address. You will receive an email from Mathworks with instructions to create a Mathworks account. The MATLAB software will be available for download from the Mathworks site.


Student Coursework Requirements

Some students will find individual assignments to be more difficult than students whose background or level of experience is different. When needed, extra time will generally be provided, and students need not fret if it takes multiple attempts and extended deadlines to succeed at some of the more complex assignments. Multiple submissions of all or part of an assignment are permitted. Students should feel free to help each other, but should acknowledge the assistance. End of term submissions of assignments that are well past their deadline will be penalized.  More details are provided in the supplement to this syllabus.



Grading Policy

Assignments are nominally due according to the dates posted on the Canvas course site. The course grader or I will post grades by one week after assignment due dates. If you disagree with the grader’s assessment, please let me know by email or telephone. There is never a need to fret over these things. The course is supposed to be fun. Enjoy it. 

Course grades will be: 15% participation + 60% assignments + 25% project

I generally do not directly grade spelling and grammar. However, egregious violations of the rules of the English language will be noted, sometimes with detailed comments. Consistently poor performance in either spelling or grammar may detract from your grade.

Grading elements:

Assignments are evaluated by the following grading elements:

  1. The problem being addressed should be re-stated succinctly, and each part of the assignment must be addressed in appropriate detail.
  2. Getting the correct answer is important, but understanding the approach is often more important. Explain your approach. If you are unable to solve the problem, comment on what difficulties you encountered.
  3. Provide enough details such that a person knowledgeable in the field can repeat the work is essential. Explain key equations. Don’t just submit equations and calculations without exposition of what you are doing and why.
  4. Acknowledge assistance provided to or from others. Avail yourself of help when needed. The rationale for believing the answer to a problem is correct should be provided.
  5. Perform and explain a back of the envelope “sanity check” to identify any glaring errors in the primary analysis. This can typically be done in a phrase or sentence.
  6. Cite outside references when appropriate. The absence of needed citations is usually obvious to the grader(s).
  7. Plagiarism is never tolerated. Instead, point the reader of your assignment to the appropriate reference source. Cutting and pasting of internet material without proper citation is the typical issue at hand, and is often obvious to the reader.
  8. Submit assignments as a single .doc, .docx, or .pdf file unless other permitted (e.g., when a spread sheet can be submitted). Cut and paste results from other files into the word or pdf file. Include your last name and the assignment number in the file name.
  9. Under no circumstances submit large lists of numbers produced by MatLab or Excel. If you wouldn’t submit it to your management, don’t submit it to Canvas. Submit tables, graphs, and graphics that have been properly edited instead. All graphs must have meaningful axes labels, and all tables, graphs, and graphics must have first rate captions.
  10. Handwritten submissions scanned into pdf files are always acceptable, as is the use of cursive. This is not a typing course.



Grading Rubric:

Assignments are graded as follows unless a separate grading rubric is provided with an atypical assignment. For example, the modification and use of a spreadsheet provided by the instructor for predicting the orbital behavior of a satellite warrants a separate rubric due to the special nature of the assignment.

9 – 10: high A, meaning that the work exceeds expectations. This means that all 10 grading elements have been addressed for each problem in the assignment.

8: grade of A, meaning that the work is acceptable and no resubmission is needed. This means that all but one or two of the grading elements have been addressed.

6 – 7: B, meaning that only one or two of the grading elements are missing, but the remaining elements are addressed in a superficial and/or incomplete fashion. The work can be improved and can be resubmitted by correcting these omissions and shortcomings.

5: Incomplete, meaning that work was submitted, but was missing more than two elements or the completion of elements was superficial and/or incomplete. The five is used as a placeholder in Canvas, and will be turned to a 0 at the end of the term.

  1. If grading elements 8 and 9 are not satisfied, the work will be assigned a placeholder grade of two and must be resubmitted before it will be graded. The grade will be turned to a 0 at the end of the term if the assignment is not resubmitted.
  2. Plagiarism, which will result in follow- up discussions with the instructor, is never tolerated, and the entire assignment will receive a grade of one as a placeholder and submitted to the department head for consideration of academic sanctions (see below)

0: No work was submitted.

  1. The Research Project 

The research project will be assigned several weeks into the course. Students will be encouraged to share their experiences during on-line office hour sessions.

The research project is evaluated by the following grading elements:

  1. It includes an element of exploration and uncertainty. In other words, there is no guarantee that a meeting is possible, or it rains, or you get seasick, etc. This is the real world, and you not be penalized for taking chances in order to try something new and interesting.
  2. It explores at least one significant primary source.
  3. It is relevant to the course material.
  4. The final report, using pdf, Word, or PowerPoint, explains the motivation, details, and results of the project in a succinct but understandable, and hopefully compelling way.
  5. There must be no downloads from the internet that aren’t edited to meet the needs of the report and that are not properly cited.

Note that original videos are always welcome.

Don’t worry about page count. Simply describe what you did, how you did it, what you learned, and what you would do differently next time.

Keep it short.



The Research Project requires successful completion of items 1 – 5, and will be returned for revision if it doesn’t. Each item is worth 25% of the final grade of 10 points, which is then weighted to count for 30% of the final grade. Note that it is okay to “crash and burn”, as long as you gave the project the effort required to satisfy items 1 – 5, above.


  1. The final grade

A final grade for the course of A indicates achievement of consistent quality and distinction throughout the course—that is, good work in all aspects of assignments and discussion in every week.

A final grade of B indicates work that meets all course requirements on a level acceptable for graduate academic work. These criteria apply to both undergraduates and graduate students taking the course.

An A+ is given when there is some very outstanding feature of the student’s work that stands out not just for effort, but for creativity, imagination, and perseverance.

Homework assignments, or individual problems from assignments, can always be resubmitted to Canvas during the course of the term.

In general, unless there is extreme procrastination, late assignment submissions are not penalized. Learning and enjoyment are the objectives. The world will not come to an end if obligations arise, or if you simply need a flop day or two.


Course Policies

Assignments and parts of assignments can be re-submitted. If extra time is needed, that is fine.  Typically, in order to take advantage of real-time and recorded office hours, office hours taking an extra week is fine.  

Academic Policies

Deadlines for Adding, Dropping and Withdrawing from Courses

Students may add a course up to one week after the start of the term for that particular course. Students may drop courses according to the drop deadlines outlined in the EP academic calendar (https://ep.jhu.edu/student-services/academic-calendar/). Between the 6th week of the class and prior to the final withdrawal deadline, a student may withdraw from a course with a W on their academic record. A record of the course will remain on the academic record with a W appearing in the grade column to indicate that the student registered and withdrew from the course.

Academic Misconduct Policy

All students are required to read, know, and comply with the Johns Hopkins University Krieger School of Arts and Sciences (KSAS) / Whiting School of Engineering (WSE) Procedures for Handling Allegations of Misconduct by Full-Time and Part-Time Graduate Students.

This policy prohibits academic misconduct, including but not limited to the following: cheating or facilitating cheating; plagiarism; reuse of assignments; unauthorized collaboration; alteration of graded assignments; and unfair competition. Course materials (old assignments, texts, or examinations, etc.) should not be shared unless authorized by the course instructor. Any questions related to this policy should be directed to EP’s academic integrity officer at ep-academic-integrity@jhu.edu.

Students with Disabilities - Accommodations and Accessibility

Johns Hopkins University values diversity and inclusion. We are committed to providing welcoming, equitable, and accessible educational experiences for all students. Students with disabilities (including those with psychological conditions, medical conditions and temporary disabilities) can request accommodations for this course by providing an Accommodation Letter issued by Student Disability Services (SDS). Please request accommodations for this course as early as possible to provide time for effective communication and arrangements.

For further information or to start the process of requesting accommodations, please contact Student Disability Services at Engineering for Professionals, ep-disability-svcs@jhu.edu.

Student Conduct Code

The fundamental purpose of the JHU regulation of student conduct is to promote and to protect the health, safety, welfare, property, and rights of all members of the University community as well as to promote the orderly operation of the University and to safeguard its property and facilities. As members of the University community, students accept certain responsibilities which support the educational mission and create an environment in which all students are afforded the same opportunity to succeed academically. 

For a full description of the code please visit the following website: https://studentaffairs.jhu.edu/policies-guidelines/student-code/

Classroom Climate

JHU is committed to creating a classroom environment that values the diversity of experiences and perspectives that all students bring. Everyone has the right to be treated with dignity and respect. Fostering an inclusive climate is important. Research and experience show that students who interact with peers who are different from themselves learn new things and experience tangible educational outcomes. At no time in this learning process should someone be singled out or treated unequally on the basis of any seen or unseen part of their identity. 
If you have concerns in this course about harassment, discrimination, or any unequal treatment, or if you seek accommodations or resources, please reach out to the course instructor directly. Reporting will never impact your course grade. You may also share concerns with your program chair, the Assistant Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, or the Office of Institutional Equity. In handling reports, people will protect your privacy as much as possible, but faculty and staff are required to officially report information for some cases (e.g. sexual harassment).

Course Auditing

When a student enrolls in an EP course with “audit” status, the student must reach an understanding with the instructor as to what is required to earn the “audit.” If the student does not meet those expectations, the instructor must notify the EP Registration Team [EP-Registration@exchange.johnshopkins.edu] in order for the student to be retroactively dropped or withdrawn from the course (depending on when the "audit" was requested and in accordance with EP registration deadlines). All lecture content will remain accessible to auditing students, but access to all other course material is left to the discretion of the instructor.