An ‘unhackable’ navigation system built in Britain that was flown in the world first

An invincible quantum navigation system has been built in Britain and operated in an airplane for the first time.

The breakthrough comes amid a growing threat from satellite jammers that stop traditional GPS from working on both civilian and military aircraft.

Current navigation methods rely on satellites for navigation and this is susceptible to hacking attempts or technological interference, which overwhelms existing guidance systems.

However, Quantum is a self-contained system that can navigate without relying on any external infrastructure.

Politicians and officials have become well aware of the dangers of GPS blocking following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the rise of electronic warfare.

The RAF’s jet navigation system was recently compromised by a foreign state, according to Grant Shapps, Russia.

Traditional GPS systems are vulnerable to third-party hacking attempts or technological interference

Traditional GPS systems are vulnerable to third-party hacking attempts or technological interference – SECURITY/LEGAL ATTENTION

The world first, shown at Boscombe Down, raises hopes that Britain can meet its target of protecting British aircraft from GPS jamming by 2030, thanks to quantum backup systems.

A Whitehall source told the Telegraph that GPS jamming on civil aircraft is relatively rare but there are “always changing threats to the world around us”.

“By building leading-edge secure navigation systems that effectively stop the risks of GPS jamming, we will ensure that British aircraft can travel safely and without disruption,” they said.

Quantum navigation, unlike GPS, can determine speed and distance – and therefore position – by exploiting the properties of ultracold atoms.

Scientists have been trying to turn the theory into deployable technologies for several years but the systems are complex and delicate and have never before been made to work outside a laboratory.

A British project, backed by £8 million of Government funding, has managed this for the first time ever in a commercial setting.

Andrew Griffith, the science minister, during an exclusive test flight of the plane, told the Telegraph that there is a “quantum acceleration” due to the current geopolitical tension as countries try to protect themselves from GPS vulnerabilities.

“This is a global issue,” he said. “We are seeing, at the lowest level, that car thieves are using scammers but we have also seen other State actors interfere with the RAF plane of the Secretary of State for Defence.

“There’s a lot of danger out there now in relying on a single source on the GPS system. What’s really exciting about today is getting out of the lab and into a real-world environment.

“There is more interest, more capital, more innovation, and more clarity from the government about the importance of quantum.

“You could make a case that, until today, quantum was the least understood of the five pillars of the Science and Technology framework but the quantum party is coming out today.”

The pioneering system, built in Oxford by Infleqtion, has undergone eight hours of testing on a custom Avro RJ100 operated by QinetiQ at the MoD base at Boscombe Down, near Salisbury.

The Avro RJ100 completed eight hours of testing on SundayThe Avro RJ100 completed eight hours of testing on Sunday

The Avro RJ100 completed eight hours of testing on Sunday

Half of the plane’s cabin space was dedicated to racks equipped with modern technology.

On the final test flight, The Telegraph saw how two racks, about 4 feet high, contained the lasers, atoms and wires needed to make the quantum navigation technology work.

Experts said it could fit on a single rack and will soon be miniaturized with hopes for large-scale commercial deployment in the future.

QinetiQ, which was also part of the consortium that fitted the DragonFire laser drone defense system to Navy ships, runs the Boscombe Down site and its lead test pilot captained the flight, which carried out a range of maneuvers from the air to the put a novel shipping. system through its speeds.

A team of on-board physicists and aeronautical engineers approached the quantum navigation system, as well as an on-board quantum clock, which is the equivalent of a record player.

The first few tests of the quantum navigation equipment failed to work because the vibrations from the aircraft’s engines, along with many other noise-inducing factors, prevented the process from working properly.

But after stripping the system back to its bare bones and rebuilding it more solidly, the system worked as expected.

Quantum navigation works by using an array of lasers to cool a cloud of rubidium atoms to a fraction above absolute zero (-273°C). A hundred million atoms, weighing only a billionth of a billionth of a gram, have zero energy and stop behaving like ordinary particles. At these cold temperatures, the cloud emerges not as a solid, liquid or gas but in another state of matter called a Bose-Einstein condensate.

This unusual substance behaves like both a wave and a particle because the cold brings out the quantum properties of the atoms.

A laser splits the cloud of atoms and each entity then separates before being reassembled. The way they interact can then be analyzed to show speed, distance and position.

The Bose-Einstein condensate is the fifth state of matter first theorized 100 years ago and first created in a laboratory in the 90s.

Dr Keshav Thirumalai, head of portfolio inertia at Infleqtion, told the Telegraph from 10,000 feet above Wiltshire: “Based on that interference pattern, you can determine the position of the aircraft.

“It’s a great achievement to get this all working to this point,” he said.

The next step is to combine the working quantum mechanism with data from the plane itself to generate addressable information.

Henry White, chief technologist (detection) at BAE Systems, which is part of the consortium that developed the technology, said: “Now this demonstration has shown that the BEC continues to be stable in flight, the next step is that navigation to do. function, allowing us to use this as a standard piece of equipment during shipping.

“Investment at this early stage has helped cement the UK’s position as a leader in quantum technology, achieving a world first with this flight demonstration.”

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