Our History

Our History



The organisation that came to be known as the Royal Institute of Navigation (RIN) was formed on 12 March 1947, following the example of the US Institute of Navigation. It was inspired by a sense of the important part navigation had played in winning the Second World War. The wartime ingenuity in navigation gathered pace in the post-war years, and the Institute of Navigation was created to give scientists, technologists and practitioners from the many fields of navigation an environment to learn, share experiences, and promote navigational knowledge in all its forms.
The Institute had support from several noted navigation celebrities of the day - at its launch Sir Harold Spencer Jones, the Astronomer-Royal, was sworn in as President, with support from Air Chief Marshal Sir John Slessor (Deputy Chief of the Air Staff) and Sir Robert Watson-Watt as Vice-Presidents. The Institute's first Executive Secretary (later to be renamed Director) was prolific maritime navigator Michael Richey, and it was he who, in 1948, took it upon himself to launch the Journal of Navigation.


1950s - 1960s

The Institute broadened its outlook from pure navigation issues to address safety issues, and forged new and valuable relationships with other leading European organisations. Together, they addressed the important navigational and safety issues of the day.



In 1972, to coincide with its 25th year of existence, the Institute of Navigation became the Royal Institute of Navigation, following recognition by Her Majesty the Queen.
Throughout the 1970s, the working parties began to publish reports on navigation and safety issues. They covered topics from the importance of traffic separation and collision prevention in the maritime environment to fuel reserves in aircraft. As the Institute's focus broadened, it began to organise conferences to discuss these issues, on both a national and an international level. It was this broad focus that allowed the RIN to not only survive, but thrive in the new era of satellite navigation from the late 1970s onwards.


1980s - 1990s

In 1984, a 'Way Ahead Group' appointed by the RIN Council recommended several crucial additions to its profile, including the creation of Special Interest Groups and the launch of a populist newsletter. This later became Navigation News. It was also during the early 1980s that the Institute broadened its focus again to include animal navigation in its remit, and moved to proactively recruit younger members.
Between 1984-1994, the Institute ran a series of larger European conferences and added more and more Special Interest Groups to its portfolio as the Institute became determined to embrace modern navigation.

The RIN made its first appearance on the internet during Walter Blanchard's presidency of 1993-96, and its website has been consistently popular ever since as a source of news for everyone with an interest in navigation.



In 2004, the Council began investigating ways to provide members with legal protection. Three years later, to mark its 60th anniversary in 2007, the Institute changed its status once again, as it had to mark its 25th. It gained a Royal Charter, becoming an 'incorporated body' in 2006. In the wake of the change, the Institute rebranded itself, developing a new logo for the 21st century and a new website to serve members and visitors as an electronic 'version' of the Institute itself.



The 2010s saw the re-introduction of the International Navigation Conference (INC). This has now grown to be an important event annually for many across the global navigation and timing community. 

The Institute has been a key proponent of resilient PNT and has played a leading role in defining the impact of satellite navigation vulnerabilities and addressing coherent action planning towards more robustness.

In 2016 the Institute agreed a strategy that included offering professional registration to suitably qualified members. To enable this, in 2017, the Institute became a Professional Affiliate of the Engineering Council and changes to By Laws were approved by the Privy Council. In 2018 a Registration Agreement with the Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS) was concluded. Professional registration enables those who see RIN as their professional home to become professionally registered. We are engaging with a new demographic of students and members who now wish to become professionally registered through RIN.

Positioning and navigation are now effectively ubiquitous in our daily lives. Satellite-derived precise time is increasingly critical for communications and our connected world. Despite these radical and ongoing changes, the Institute's objectives and charter remain appropriate - we bring people together across disciplines and sectors to advance navigation. The desire to learn and to share knowledge; to innovate and be professionally competent; to understand and master the craft of navigation -- all these remain embodied in the spirit of all members across the Institute. To shape the RIN of tomorrow, join or get involved today.