Royal Navy tests quantum navigation sensor from Imperial College
The accelerometer uses ultra-cold atoms, whose wave-like properties allow them to be measured accurately by lasers as they move under acceleration.
Quantum accelerometers and gyros are of enormous interest for inertial navigation systems as the quantum nature of the parameters measured have the potential to offer absolute accuracy – measurements with no error or, at least, to offer long periods between calibration.
The Imperial sensor was loaded aboard Royal Navy research ship the XV Patrick Blackett in a container-line NavyPod from Qinetiq (left).
“So far, the testing has gone well but the technology is still in its very early stages,” said Patrick Blackett commanding officer Michael Hutchinson. “Working with Imperial College on this project has been an exciting and interesting opportunity for all of us. It’s great to be a part of Royal Navy history.”
“No results yet as they only sailed back to Portsmouth a couple of days ago,” Imperial told Electronics Weekly.
The university, which unveiled its first quantum navigation prototype in 2018, has formed Quest, the Centre for Centre for Quantum Engineering, Science and Technology, to translate quantum science into quantum technology.
“The quantum accelerometer is at the forefront of quantum innovation,” said Quest director Professor Peter Haynes. “It has the potential to transform navigation by making it more accurate and secure.”
XV Patrick Blackett (right, without the NavyPod) is named after 1948 Nobel Prize winner Professor Lord Blackett, head of the Imperial College Department of Physics from 1953 to 1963, who served in the Royal Navy in the First World War, was a military strategist in the Second World War, and was the Admiralty’s first director of operational research.
Top two images: Thomas Angus, Imperial College London
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