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Quantum positioning system could fill GPS gaps for aviation

April 30, 2021  - By
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The High-BIAS2 project advances cold-atom quantum gyroscope

The High-BIAS2 (high-bandwidth inertial atom source) project today announced new milestones that move the industry closer to safer skies with more precise inflight navigation systems. The project has advanced its development of a cold atom-based quantum positioning system (QPS), which enables vehicle navigation without a GPS or GNSS signal.

Reducing the reliance on GPS and GNSS technologies is critical for scenarios where signals from these systems are not available, such as underwater or in space, or when they suffer disruptions due to technical issues, cyberattacks and atmospheric or reflection effects.

High-BIAS2 is designed to demonstrate the rapid commercialization of quantum technologies for real-world applications.


“Inertial navigation systems enhanced by ColdQuanta’s Cold Atom Quantum Technology hold the promise of navigation in the absence of GPS and GNSS.”


Inflight Trials. The project will culminate with inflight trials via BAE Systems’ test aircraft to validate the gyroscope’s use for aerospace applications. The airborne technology demonstrator will consist of a quantum gyroscope sensor and control system, reference gyroscope and commercial navigator system.

“Gyro technology is a key aspect of navigation for airborne platforms. Improving performance whilst still being compatible with the aerospace environment is something that BAE Systems sees as important in aiding navigation when GNSS signals aren’t available,” said Julia Sutcliffe, air chief technologist, BAE Systems. “We can see exciting applications across our defense, security and commercial businesses including land, sea and air environments for the quantum devices being developed in the High-BIAS2 project.”

UK Backing. High-BIAS2 is partially funded by the United Kingdom’s government through the National Quantum Technologies Programme, which is focused on accelerating the translation of quantum technologies into the marketplace and securing the UK’s status as a world leader in quantum science and technologies.

High-BIAS2 is backed by UK quantum end users and supply-chain partners. Technology, application and commercialization development partners include:

Cold atom quantum technology serves as the foundation for the project’s gyroscope and QPS. Its quantum sensor uses tightly confined ultra-cold atoms, which are cooled to a billionth of a degree above absolute zero and organized in a novel configuration. This approach to harnessing cold atom quantum technology is crucial to success in aerospace applications where motion sensing in highly dynamic environments is the norm.

“High-BIAS2 is a huge step forward in developing practical use cases for quantum sensors and will showcase the real power of quantum in action,” said Dan Caruso, CEO and executive chairman of ColdQuanta. “Inertial navigation systems enhanced by ColdQuanta’s cold atom quantum technology hold the promise of navigation in the absence of GPS and GNSS. This technological breakthrough benefits a wide range of billion dollar industries including aerospace, autonomous vehicles, marine transportation, oil and gas excavation and more.”

This velocity-distribution data for a gas of rubidium atoms confirmed the discovery of the Bose–Einstein condensate in 1995. In these three snapshots in time, atoms—cooled to near absolute zero—condensed from less dense areas on the left (red, yellow, and green) to very dense areas at the center and the right (blue and white). (Image: NIST/JILA/CU-Boulder)

This velocity-distribution data for a gas of rubidium atoms confirmed the discovery of the Bose–Einstein condensate in 1995. In these three snapshots in time, atoms—cooled to near absolute zero—condensed from less dense areas on the left (red, yellow, and green) to very dense areas at the center and the right (blue and white). (Image: NIST/JILA/CU-Boulder)

About the Author:


Senior Editor Tracy Cozzens joined GPS World magazine in 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.

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