In a commercial world-first, quantum navigation technology developed in the UK, supported through UKRI funding, was successfully tested in flight.
In a first-of-its-kind achievement, the UK has successfully completed commercial flight trials of advanced quantum-based navigation systems that cannot be jammed or spoofed by hostile actors.
Global positioning system (GPS) jamming is currently relatively rare and does not directly impact an aircraft’s flight path. However, new quantum-based positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) systems are set to be part of a larger solution to providing a resilient navigation that complements space-based navigation and timing systems. This could help ensure that critical transport systems and infrastructure can operate without disruption.
Infleqtion, a quantum technology firm, in collaboration with aerospace companies BAE Systems and QinetiQ, completed the trials at Ministry of Defence Boscombe Down in Wiltshire. Science Minister Andrew Griffith was aboard the final test flight on 9 May 2024.
These tests are the first time that this sort of ground-breaking technology has been tested in the UK on an aircraft in flight. They are also the first such flights worldwide that have been publicly acknowledged.

World leaders on quantum
Science Minister Andrew Griffith said:
“From passenger flights to shipping, we all depend on navigation systems that are accurate, safe and secure. The scientific research we are supporting here could well provide the resilience to protect our interests.”
The fact that this technology has flown for the first time in British skies, is further proof of the UK as one of the world leaders on quantum.

Two ground-breaking quantum technologies
In a series of test flights, the team led by Infleqtion has demonstrated two ground-breaking quantum technologies both aboard QinetiQ’s RJ100 Airborne Technology Demonstrator, a modified aircraft. The two ground-breaking quantum technologies are:

The technology being tested on the flight will form part of a quantum inertial navigation system (Q-INS). This has the potential to revolutionise PNT, with the system offering exceptional accuracy and resilience, independent of traditional satellite navigation using GPS.
PNT helps us know our location, navigate, and keep track of time. The cornerstone of modern PNT technology is precision clocks. These ultra-accurate timekeepers are crucial for various applications, and portable production of ultracold atoms is another key piece of the puzzle.
Ultracold atoms, atoms that have been cooled to temperatures near absolute zero (the coldest possible temperature), are ideal for building quantum accelerometers and gyroscopes, which form the heart of a Q-INS.
The test is part of a project funded by UKRI specifically focusing on creating quantum sensors to address the UK’s heavy reliance on global navigation satellite system (GNSS) or GPS for location, navigation and timing data. This dependence creates a vulnerability, as a single point of failure (like jamming or spoofing GPS signals) could disrupt critical economic, defence, and strategic activities.
The consortium working alongside Infleqtion includes:

Marking a significant milestone
The completion of these flight trials marks a significant milestone towards Mission 4 of the UK’s national quantum strategy. By 2030, this mission aims to deploy quantum navigation systems on aircraft, providing next-generation accuracy and resilience independent of satellite signals.
The successful testing of an optical atomic clock, Infleqtion’s Tiqker, and core elements of a quantum inertial sensor aboard QinetiQ’s RJ100 Airborne Technology Demonstrator represents a breakthrough in airborne quantum technology.

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We are pleased to announce that we will participate in the UK National Quantum Technologies Showcase this year.

This year’s National Quantum Technologies Showcase, the flagship event of the UK’s quantum community, will take place on Thursday 2 November at the Business Design Centre (BDC), London.

The showcase will feature some of the UK’s most exciting projects from across the Quantum landscape demonstrating the advancing commercialisation and industrialisation of quantum technologies in the UK.

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