Last Modified: June 6, 2023
- The Royal Navy has successfully conducted the inaugural trial of a quantum navigation system capable of determining a vessel’s precise location worldwide, without reliance on GPS.
- The technology was developed by physicists from Imperial College in London.
- Quantum navigation represents a technological leap over satellite-based systems, because satellites can be jammed and often malfunction.
The Royal Navy is considered history’s greatest global navigators and early adopters of navigational technology. Now, Sky News is reporting that the Royal Navy is taking that historic legacy into the quantum era.
The television news network says that the Royal Navy has successfully conducted the inaugural trial of a quantum navigation system capable of determining a vessel’s precise location worldwide, without reliance on GPS. Developed by physicists from Imperial College in London, the technology utilizes the unique properties of atoms to achieve more precise measurements of an object’s movement compared to conventional methods.
With this quantum navigation system onboard, a ship could navigate with greater accuracy than traditional chart and compass methods, eliminating the need for satellite-based navigation that is currently widely employed.
Colonel Tom Ryan, the head of Navy X, the Royal Navy’s research division, highlighted the significance of this development, stating that it offers a new and innovative approach to accurately plot a vessel’s position, a fundamental requirement for the Navy and military operations.
It represents a potentially long technological leap from current satellite navigation.
“Sometimes that can be interfered with or sometimes it doesn’t work,” Colonel Tom Ryan, head of Navy X, the Royal Navy’s research division, told Sky News. “So the ability to have a new and novel way of accurately, very accurately, plotting your position is fundamental to the way the Royal Navy and the military does business.”
Although specific details about the applications of this technology remain undisclosed by the Royal Navy, certain hints suggest potential uses. For instance, submarines cannot rely on GPS while submerged. Quantum navigation, however, could theoretically work while the craft is submerged.
The XV Patrick Blackett, the Navy’s new experimental vessel, provided the setting for the experiment. Sky News said the ship makes a perfect host for the futuristic experiment — it boasts a sleek design, featuring tinted windows and a glossy black hull.
The successful trial of the quantum navigation system marks a significant step forward in naval technology, with potential implications for enhancing navigation capabilities and operational effectiveness in various maritime scenarios.
With a several-decades long background in journalism and communications, Matt Swayne has worked as a science communicator for an R1 university for more than 12 years, specializing in translating high tech and deep tech for the general audience. He has served as a writer, editor and analyst at The Quantum Insider since its inception. In addition to his service as a science communicator, Matt also develops courses to improve the media and communications skills of scientists and has taught courses.