UK trials quantum-based aircraft navigation system

The government says that the UK has completed commercial flight trials of advanced quantum-based navigation systems that cannot be jammed or spoofed by hostile actors.

GPS jamming, which involves producing a radio frequency strong enough to drown out transmissions from GPS satellites, is currently rare and does not directly impact an aircraft’s flightpath.

Should incidents of GPS jamming increase , the new quantum-based positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) systems could provide accurate and resilient navigation which complements current satellite systems.

The government said these tests represent the first time that the technology has been tested in the UK on an aircraft in flight. It added that the flights are also the first of their kind to be publicly acknowledged.

The technology tested on the flight will form part of a Quantum Inertial Navigation System (Q-INS), which the government says will increase the accuracy of PNT systems through precision clocks, with the system offering exceptional accuracy and resilience, independent of traditional satellite navigation using GPS.

The project was led by Infleqtion, a quantum technology firm, in collaboration with aerospace companies BAE Systems and QinetiQ.

The technology was developed in the UK and supported by the government with a investment of nearly £8 million as part of the £2.5 billion National Quantum Strategy and National Quantum Technologies Programme.

“The work we have done directly addresses the critical need to reduce our reliance on satellite navigation systems, which are vulnerable to various risks,” said Dr Timothy Ballance, Infleqtion UK president. “The successful flight trials demonstrate the potential of quantum technology in overcoming navigation system challenges, which is an exciting development for future applications in the aerospace industry and beyond.”

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