The UK has carried out its first trial of quantum-based navigation systems for commercial flight, conducting the first publicly reported tests of the technology designed to stop GPS jamming. 

Quantum technology company Infleqtion led the trial at military testing site Boscome Down in Wiltshire, England alongside BAE Systems and QinetiQ. A group of government and industry representatives, including the UK’s Science Minister Andrew Griffith, were onboard the BAE Systems RJ100 tech demonstrator flight.  

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 on quantum technology could well provide the resilience to protect our interests.” 

The Infleqtion project has been backed by almost £8m in funding from the government as part of its National Quantum Strategy and includes two technologies: a compact optical atomic clock and a tightly confined ultra-cold-atom-based quantum system

While aircraft affected by GPS jamming are usually able to move to back-up navigation systems, quantum-based Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT) systems are being developed to improve the resilience of navigation technology and avoid disruption completely. 

Dr Timothy Ballance, UK President for Infleqtion, said: “The work we have done directly addresses the critical need to reduce our reliance on satellite navigation systems, which are vulnerable to various risks. 

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“The successful flight trials demonstrate the potential of quantum technology in overcoming navigation system challenges, which is an exciting development for future applications in the aerospace industry and beyond.” 

Technology tested on the flight will form part of a Quantum Inertial Navigation System which will be able to operate independent of traditional satellite GPS navigation. 

Development of the technology comes amid a rise in jamming incidents around Eastern Europe, with UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps travelling on board an aircraft affected by the issue in March, which some blamed on Russian interference. 

Finnair recently temporarily cancelled flights to Tartu, Estonia after two GPS jamming incidents occurred on flights approaching the airport, forcing them to abandon their landings with no back-up navigation tech at the airport.