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Independent, resilient navigation

Quantum technologies will enable future navigation systems to be independent, resulting in resilient & safe transport. 

Our everyday reliance on navigation systems is often hugely underestimated, as is the dependence of services on Global Positioning System (GPS), so much so that it has now become known as the ‘invisible utility’.

Seven per cent of UK GDP is dependent on the availability of satellite signals, and according to the 2018 Blackett report, the first five days of a GNSS outage comes at a cost of £1bn a day which is far too much dependence on a system often considered to be vulnerable and easily compromised. Society can often sleepwalk into situations which are problematic – we all love the convenience of having sat nav in our cars, but too much of our society, our economy, is dependent on the availability of those weak signals.

UK Quantum Technology Hub Sensors and Timing researchers at Imperial College London and the University of Birmingham are developing a standalone quantum navigation system, which does not rely on satellite signals and is therefore invulnerable to the same external risks experienced by GPS,  enabling independent navigation ensuring resilient, safe transport.

Another significant branch of the QT Hub’s research focuses on improving railway navigation technology in an effort to reduce train delays and increase passenger experience. The project aims to tackle one of the rail sector’s biggest challenges: how to pinpoint the accurate location of a moving train without reliance on GNSS, which will help engineers ensure the health of the railway track. Overcoming this challenge is key to ensuring fewer train delays and increased passenger safety.

Industry collaboration is central to the Quantum Technology Hub’s goal of translating science into real-world applications, and Hub academics are working with Network Rail and other international railway organisations to bring precise, resilient navigation to the rail sector.

The quantum inertial navigation system promises huge benefits to the UK. It will free large sections of our services and many professions from reliance on GNSS and the fear of it failing. As with much of the quantum sensor research at the UK Quantum Technology Hub Sensors and Timing, the system will ensure that the country’s critical infrastructure is more secure and resilient.