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Unjammable Navigation Technology Successfully Tested in UK Aircraft

UK aircraft successfully tests unjammable quantum-based navigation technology. Quantum system uses cooled atoms to accurately determine the aircraft's location. Collaboration between Infleqtion, BAE Systems, and QinetiQ.

Ground-breaking quantum technology has been successfully tested in a UK aircraft, marking a significant milestone in the development of an unjammable backup for GPS navigation systems. The test, publicly acknowledged as the first of its kind, was funded by the government and showcases the UK's leadership in quantum technology.


Unlike GPS, which relies on satellite signals, the new system is quantum-based, utilising the properties of matter at a microscopic scale. Science minister Andrew Griffith hailed the test flights as "further proof of the UK as one of the world leaders on quantum."


GPS plays a critical role in various sectors, including aviation, maritime, and road transportation, as well as personal navigation. However, GPS signals can be easily jammed or spoofed, leading to misleading location data. Recent incidents, such as the jamming of an RAF plane carrying UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps near Russian territory, highlight the vulnerability of GPS systems.


Experts have accused Russia of disrupting satellite navigation systems, impacting thousands of civilian flights. The interference caused Finland's flag carrier, Finnair, to suspend daily flights to Tartu, Estonia for a month after two of its aircraft experienced GPS interference.


The newly tested quantum system operates by using a group of atoms cooled to extremely low temperatures, close to absolute zero. These atoms, carried on the aircraft itself, are immune to spoofing or jamming. By measuring the direction and acceleration of the plane, the system can accurately determine its location.


The quantum system, named for the science of studying particles at a minuscule scale, demonstrates the feasibility of using atoms in the challenging environment of an aircraft. The successful test conducted in the UK is the first of its kind worldwide to be publicly acknowledged.


The trials were a collaboration between quantum tech firm Infleqtion and aerospace companies BAE Systems and QinetiQ. While the current quantum technology equipment is relatively large, Henry White from BAE Systems believes that in five to ten years, it could be the size of a shoebox and a thousand times more accurate than existing systems.


The primary application of this technology is envisioned as a backup to GPS rather than a replacement. White emphasised the convenience and reliability of satellite systems, stating, "You're not going to get rid of your satellite systems." However, the quantum system could provide a robust backup in case of GPS failure or interference.


In addition to navigation, GPS signals are also used for precise timekeeping. As part of the test flight, a quantum clock was onboarded to evaluate its potential as a backup timekeeping device if GPS signals were blocked. Quantum clocks have shown remarkable accuracy in laboratory settings, with some losing only a second since the beginning of the universe.


While the successful test is a significant step forward, experts caution that it will take time before the technology is implemented on a practical scale. Ken Munro of Pen Test Partners, a cybersecurity firm specialising in aviation, believes it will be 10 to 20 years before we see widespread implementation of this technology in commercial aviation in the UK.

 
  • UK aircraft successfully tests unjammable quantum-based navigation technology.

  • Quantum system uses cooled atoms to accurately determine the aircraft's location.

  • Collaboration between Infleqtion, BAE Systems, and QinetiQ.


Source: BBC

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