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Whereas originally the term Navigation applies to the process of directing a ship to a destination, Navigation research deals with fundamental aspects of navigation in general. It can be defined as "The process of determining and maintaining a course or trajectory to a goal location" (Franz, Mallot, 2000). It concerns basically all moving agents, biological or artificial, autonomous or remote-controlled.

Franz and Mallot proposed a navigation hierarchy (Robotics and Autonomous Systems 30 (2000), 133-153):

Behavioural prerequisite

Navigation competence

Local navigation


Goal recognition

Finding the goal without active goal orientation


Align course with local direction

Finding the goal from one direction


Keep goal in front

Finding a salient goal from a catchment area


Attain spatial relation to the surrounding objects

Finding a goal defined by its relation to the surroundings


Recognition-triggered response

Association sensory pattern-action

Following fixed routes

Topological navigation

Route integration, route planning

Flexible concatenation of route segments

Survey navigation

Embedding into a common reference frame

Finding paths over novel terrain

There are two basic methods for navigation:

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