U.K. Completes Quantum Navigation Flight Trials Unaffected by Jamming

These trials represent the first-ever deployment of quantum navigation systems on an aircraft in the U.K.
  • Defensemirror.com bureau
  • 12:00 PM, May 13, 2024
  • 1839
U.K. Completes Quantum Navigation Flight Trials Unaffected by Jamming

The United Kingdom has conducted commercial flight trials of quantum-based navigation systems that are impervious to jamming or spoofing attempts by hostile entities.

The trials, conducted at MoD Boscombe Down in Wiltshire, were led by Infleqtion, a quantum technology firm, in partnership with aerospace giants BAE Systems and QinetiQ. The final test flight on Thursday, May 9th, saw Science Minister Andrew Griffith personally witness the innovative technology in action.

These trials represent the first-ever deployment of quantum navigation systems on an aircraft in the U.K. and are believed to be the world's first publicly acknowledged tests of their kind.

The project, which received nearly £8 million in government backing, aligns with the U.K.'s ambitious National Quantum Strategy and Quantum Technologies Programme.

Infleqtion's team, in collaboration with industry and academic partners, demonstrated two quantum technologies during the trials: the compact Tiqker optical atomic clock and an ultra-cold-atom-based quantum system, both aboard QinetiQ’s RJ100 Airborne Technology Demonstrator. These technologies form the core of the Quantum Inertial Navigation System (Q-INS), offering accuracy and resilience independent of traditional satellite navigation like GPS.

Precision clocks and ultracold atoms play pivotal roles in quantum navigation technology. Ultracold atoms, cooled to temperatures approaching absolute zero, are essential for developing quantum accelerometers and gyroscopes that are vital components of the Q-INS.

The deployment of quantum sensors addresses the U.K.'s reliance on Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) like GPS, which pose vulnerabilities due to potential signal disruptions. A quantum-based navigation system ensures critical economic, defense, and strategic activities remain uninterrupted even if traditional satellite signals are compromised.

The completion of these flight trials marks a step towards achieving Mission 4 of the U.K.'s National Quantum Strategy. By 2030, the mission aims to integrate quantum navigation systems on aircraft.

The consortium driving this initiative includes notable partners such as the Fraunhofer Centre for Applied Photonics, Alter Technology UK, Caledonian Photonics, Redwave Labs, PA Consulting, BAE Systems, and QinetiQ.

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