Last month, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) launched MagQuest, a $1.2 million competition to advance how we measure Earth’s magnetic field. In Phase 1 of the competition, NGA is seeking ideas for novel approaches to geomagnetic data collection for the World Magnetic Model (WMM). We recently hosted an informational webinar with the challenge team from NGA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to share insights about the competition with solvers.

Watch the webinar recording and see a summary of questions asked by attendees during the live Q&A.

The global importance of the WMM and the goals for MagQuest

During the webinar, we were joined by Michael Paniccia, Angelique Garcia, Christopher Vasko, and Michael Wenkel from NGA and Arnaud Chulliat from the University of Colorado Boulder and NOAA/NCEI.

Michael Paniccia, Geodetic Earth Scientist at the NGA and program manager for the WMM, started the webinar with a detailed background of the model and its global relevance.

“Everyone dialed in here today, whether you know it or not, is a customer of the World Magnetic Model. If you happen to be dialed into this webinar with a cellphone, then you are holding the World Magnetic Model in your hand right now — it is built into your cell phone for navigation purposes.”
– Michael Paniccia, NGA

He explained that compasses are oriented by the magnetic force at a user’s location. Since geographic and magnetic poles do not align, geomagnetic models like the WMM correct for this difference. Read more about the WMM and how it’s currently produced.

Panicicia also discussed how the WMM currently obtains its data through space-based collection supplemented by ground-station measurements.

“We ask ourselves, maybe that’s the best solution for the next 10 years and on, and maybe it isn’t. We really wanted to do our due diligence and see what is out there in terms of new innovation for efficiency, reliability, sustainability. What we’re really trying to do is advance how we measure Earth’s magnetic field.”
– Michael Paniccia, NGA

With MagQuest, NGA invites domestic and international solvers to submit spaceborne, aerial, terrestrial, and other solutions to geomagnetic data collection for the WMM.

Top questions asked during the Q&A session

At the end of the webinar, attendees submitted questions to the challenge team. A summary of the top questions and answers is below; see more in the MagQuest FAQ.

Can participants submit multiple concepts in Phase 1?
Yes, participants can provide more than one submission, but will need to submit each of these as separate submission forms.

What level of hardware do you expect to come out of the projects? For example, do you expect the entrants to build and operate the proposed solutions, or just propose paper designs?
The Phase 1 submission form calls for written concepts, and Phase 2 will call for detailed paper designs (more information will be provided at the beginning of Phase 2). If potential future phases are executed, prototype development, testing and operation of hardware solutions may be required.

Do submissions need to show preliminary data in order to prove that the idea of the new technique works?
Phase 1 submissions will be evaluated according to Phase 1 selection criteria, and specifically regarding performance, judges will evaluate the degree to which concepts could achieve or exceed the necessary data requirements for production of the World Magnetic Model (WMM). The Phase 1 submission form asks for a detailed methodology, as the emphasis is on concepts, and solvers are encouraged to emphasize how their new and innovative concepts would work in the submission form (this emphasis on methodology is particularly important for those with novel ideas that may have less existing evidence to date).

Is there a place on the website where solvers can identify potential team members?
Currently there is not a place on the website that provides this information, however this may be provided at the outset of Phase 2. In the meantime, solvers are encouraged to share MagQuest with personal networks, and use the hashtag #MagQuest on social media.

Phase 1 submissions are due by 4:59 p.m. EDT on Thursday May 16, 2019. If you have questions that aren’t addressed in the webinar, please contact us at

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