Blueprints for network alternative navigation tools.

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Aweigh is a biomimetic navigation system that uses the polarised property of light to position individuals. Drawing from ancient tools like the sextant, it functions independently from infrastructure and centralised control.

Ancient seafarers and desert ants alike use universally accessible skylight to organize, orient, and place themselves in the world. Aweigh is an open navigation system that learns from the past and from the microscopic to (re)position individuals within both geographical space and contemporary technological landscape. Many contemporary technologies are black-boxed with users discouraged from understanding how they work and centralised in dangerously relying on limited systems to function. Aweigh works to empower individuals with technological knowledge and reliance on a decentralised system. Developed as a set of blueprints, Aweigh’s alternative positioning system is designed to depend only on publicly available materials and resources: digital fabrication machines, open-source code, packaged instructions, and the light received from the sun.

Combining several angular measurements between the user and reference celestial bodies, the system calculates longitude and latitude in urban and off-grid areas. While the project is currently still in progress, the team has made all development resources public via free online distribution, in conjunction with a downloadable manual, schematics for a custom PCB, templates, and several device variations. They hope that the maker and hacker community will help them work towards opening modern technologies to means of democratization, dissemination, and self-determination.


Provides additional information on how sunlight is scattered and transforms into color and polarised light.

Adobe Portable Document Format - 53.39 kB - 08/25/2019 at 20:49



Provides additional reasoning on why components were selected for device.

Adobe Portable Document Format - 44.19 kB - 08/25/2019 at 20:49



A Bill of Materials to provide information on where to order parts and manufacturers. Please note that we are UK based, so parts listed were sourced from the UK.

sheet - 14.51 kB - 08/25/2019 at 20:37



A book describing the project's journey from motivation, technical elements, inspirations, and more.

Adobe Portable Document Format - 15.19 MB - 08/24/2019 at 15:57


  • 2 × Blue enhanced photodiode Sensitive to blue light, converts light into current
  • 1 × Log Ratio Amplifier Converts input current to voltage
  • 1 × Magnetometer/Accelerometer Sensing magnetic field and providing leveling information
  • 1 × RTC Clock Module additional time module
  • 1 × Boost DC Converter Boosts voltage, in our case 9V

View all 21 components

  • Fundraising & further developments: June - July 2019

    aweigh08/24/2019 at 19:50 0 comments

    The team continues to search for funding opportunities as it hopes to have the resources to properly test and develop the project assets. Through exhibitions at the V&A and Dutch Design Week, the group hopes to connect with the public and show the value of the project. 

  • Public outreach: March - May 2019

    aweigh08/24/2019 at 19:41 0 comments

    The team receives a significant amount of public interest after the work in progress show and decides to carry out more public outreach. Aweigh is published in a number of articles including Dezeen and CreativeApplications. The team starts to look for additional exhibition and publication opportunities, with the goal of gathering interest from those able to help the project both financially and technically. The project is ultimately both a technology and a methodology, which the group hopes to present as a handy self-help kit for framing more democratic technological futures. 

  • Refinement : February 2019

    aweigh08/24/2019 at 19:16 0 comments

    The project assets are refined and improved. These include the Aweigh manual, as well as technical software and hardware parts. The website is made public for everyone to follow project updates and access resources.

  • User, Interaction, Product Design: January 2019

    aweigh08/24/2019 at 18:20 0 comments

    The Aweigh team organises a workshop to validate public interest and potential users, trying to understand the aspects of the project that might be interesting to people and which parts needed improvement. This workshop was a collaboration with the Anarchist Federation of London. Meanwhile, the team also creates a short film to illustrate the big picture problems they are trying to address. The video includes abstract depictions of modern dependencies and a simplified representation of satellite networks. It shows potential applications for the Aweigh decentralised navigation system and portrays three different types of users. The team also develops a custom PCB, condensing all components onto one board. Various designs of the device are produced concurrently. 

    These steps of the project are then used to prepare a work in progress show, in which Aweigh's development and existing outputs are displayed for visitors to interact with and comment on. Discussions on the democratization of technology during this show helped the team get feedback and raise interest about the project.

  • R&D : November - December 2018

    aweigh08/24/2019 at 17:57 0 comments

    The team spends the month researching various methods of navigation - from insect navigation to off-grid celestial navigation. They read books, spoke with experts, designed simple prototypes and experiments to validate early ideas. Throughout their findings they were particularly interested playing with light, a powerful and universal resource - which not only reveals the visible world, but also often contains layered useful information. The team designs a test rig, continues to carry out experiments, and refines the idea of using properties of light to navigate. A huge inspiration came from findings from papers about biomimetic robots and light-based navigation research. Through several iterations of research and development, the team is closer to a technical prototype, but is at this stage still missing the user interaction and design aspects of their project.

  • Focus - Navigation: October 2018

    aweigh08/24/2019 at 16:15 0 comments

    After examining multiple directions, the group focuses on navigation as a topic of interest.  Navigation is a stark example of modern reliance on a centralised and black-boxed technology: GPS satellites. These satellites are owned by a few nations in the world, largely the U.S., China, & Russia. The political challenges and dynamics of the world, which we often have no agency in, can often determine our access and interaction with everyday technologies.

  • Project Start: September, 2018

    aweigh08/24/2019 at 16:04 0 comments

    The project begins with four designers and engineers - Sam Iliffe, States Lee, Flora Weil, & Keren Zhang - coming together to form a brief to respond to as a team: creating alternatives to everyday technologies seen as blackboxed and centralised, as disempowering individuals. The group identified success criteria, methodology, and wrote a manifesto.

View all 7 project logs

  • 1
    Choose Aweigh Version (1, 2, or 3)

    Three versions of the navigation device are offered.

    • Version 1 is a functional compact device, available for purchase from the website. This version is for those who are interested in only using the decentralised, off-grid navigation system.
    • Version 2 is a set of "building blocks", which allow users to build their own device with the help of online resources provided by Aweigh. This version is for those interested in learning and increasing digital literacy.
    • Version 3 is a component list and a description of equations used. This version is for those who want to develop their own method of implementation, using different materials and tools. 
  • 2
    Aweigh Version 1

    Step 1 - Open up Aweigh packaging.

    Step 2 - Read instruction text and check device for faults.

    Step 3 - Plug in 5V battery or power bank.

    Step 4 - Turn the device on and follow instructions on the interface.

    Step 5 - Anchors aweigh!

  • 3
    Aweigh Version 2

    Step 1 - Assemble and download all components from here.

    Step 2 -Set up software as described in instructions here.

    Step 3 - Download all additional module libraries.

    Step 4 - Connect self-navigation board to Raspberry Pi according to schematic found here.

    Step 5 - Wire the screen using available pins, observing the orientation of the reading mechanism shaft.

    Step 6 - Fit the entire system into the chosen casing and fix using elastic bands or other off-the-shelf attachments.

    Step 7 - Turn device on by plugging in the battery to the main board.

    Step 8 - Enter Pygame GUI.

    Step 9 - Level the device and verify with levelling interface.

    Step 10 - Use the button to take a reading.

    Step 11 - Wait for the system to register the array of values and determine resolution of the result.

    Step 12 - After initial calibration, repeat the reading for positioning.

    Step 13 - Enter destination latitude and longitude, using the knobs.

    Step 14 - Follow the direction of the vector drawn on the GUI and repeat process when necessary during the itinerary.

    Step 15 - Anchors aweigh!

View all 4 instructions

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Hsingai Tigris Altaica wrote 01/05/2021 at 08:22 point

How much of the team is still intact and what are the future? I'm looking for disruption tolerant and non proprietary for a device to connect Stateless persons and others that need theri humans rights protected to the information society so they can get the training and community they need.  Do All I need to do is get $1000000 or do I need to find new people, which is harder because you need to understand the field to be able to tell if someone is qualified to work in it.

  Are you sure? yes | no

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