Britain is testing ‘un-jammable’ quantum-based navigation systems

Britain has completed commercial flight tests of advanced quantum-based navigation systems designed to resist jamming or spoofing by hostile actors, a press release said.

Infleqtion, a quantum technology company, partnered with aerospace companies BAE Systems and QinetiQ for these trials at MoD Boscombe Down in Wiltshire, with Science Secretary Andrew Griffith on board the final test flight on May 9.

This marks the first public test of such technology on an aircraft in flight in the UK and worldwide.

“From passenger flights to shipping, we all depend on navigation systems that are accurate and safe. The scientific research we support here could well provide the resilience to protect our interests.” Griffith said in a news release.

“The fact that this technology has flown in British airspace for the first time is further evidence that Britain is one of the world leaders in quantum technology.”

The project, led by Infleqtion together with industry and academic partners, received almost £8 million in government funding. This initiative is part of the £2.5 billion National Quantum Strategy and the National Quantum Technologies Programme, which aims to make Britain a leader in quantum technologies.

The trials tested two quantum technologies: Tiqker’s compact optical atomic clock and a limited quantum system based on ultracold atoms. These were demonstrated aboard QinetiQ’s RJ100 Airborne Technology Demonstrator.

This technology is part of a Quantum Inertial Navigation System (Q-INS), which provides accuracy and resilience independent of GPS.

Dr. Timothy Ballance, President of Infleqtion UK, said: “Our recent tests mark an important step forward in the development of quantum PNT solutions. The work we have done directly addresses the critical need to reduce our dependence on satellite navigation systems, which are vulnerable to several risks.”

The development of quantum PNT (Positioning, Navigation and Timing) systems aims to improve the accuracy and resilience of navigation. Precision clocks, such as those in Tiqker’s optical atomic clock, and ultracold atoms are crucial components of these systems. These elements are essential for building quantum accelerometers and gyroscopes, the core of a Q-INS.

Henry White, Sensing Technology Lead at BAE Systems, said in the release. “These trials are an important step forward in the development of quantum technology that could ultimately provide a significant military advantage. Knowing reliably and precisely when and where assets and sensor systems are located provides additional options for platform design and capabilities.”

Simon Galt, Managing Director (Air) at QinetiQ, noted the successful collaboration. “We are proud to be working with BAE Systems and Infleqtion to enable the successful trial of this cutting-edge technology, demonstrating our ability to collaborate quickly and effectively across the defense ecosystem.”

The successful completion of these trials is a key milestone towards Mission 4 of the UK’s National Quantum Strategy, which aims to deploy quantum navigation systems on aircraft by 2030. Roger McKinlay, Challenge Director for Quantum Technologies at Innovate UK, commented:

“These flight tests mark the culmination of two outstanding projects that Infleqtion had the vision to create and the leadership agility to execute with an outstanding team of employees.”

These trials demonstrate the potential of quantum navigation systems to deliver next-generation accuracy and resilience independent of satellite signals.

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