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Quantum Position Navigation and Timing for NATO platforms

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Sensors & Electronics Technology

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accelerometer, clock, gravimeter, gyroscope, inertial, magnetometer, navigation, Quantum


Quantum sensors have been demonstrated to be the most accurate devices for making measurements of frequency, acceleration, rotation, and electromagnetic fields. These systems use sophisticated lasers and photonics systems, atomic physics techniques such as laser cooling, and quantum theory principals like superposition, noise squeezing, and entanglement to push sensor capability to the theoretical limit. The exploratory team looked at emerging technology funded by NATO and partner countries including Australia, Germany, France, UK, and USA. The team found that there has been significant progress in maturing atomic clocks and inertial sensors. Specifically, Australia, France, and the United States have organizations with gravimeter prototypes at a maturity level consistent with initial testing in a laboratory. Germany has an accelerometer prototype meant for use in space and the prototype has begun initial testing on a sounding rocket. The USA also has active programs developing inertial measurement unit prototypes. The UK is also known to be actively pursuing quantum sensors. France, Germany, and US institutions also have prototypes of advanced atomic clocks (advanced relative to commercially available systems). These prototypes differ substantially in design. They utilize different atomic species and geometries; however they are also of maturity consistent with early testing. Australian and US institutions also are exploring magnetic sensing for navigation, with Australian scientists working towards integrating magnetic sensing into their inertial sensing. Limitations and issues that need to be addressed: The team identified several issues including sensor reliability, laser and optical sub-component size, weight, and power, and limitations to the dynamic range of sensors compared to the requirements for moving platforms. The largest issue thus-far identified by the team stems from a recognition that these sensors, as understood today, will not act alone, but will require integration into a system of systems. System interfaces may help or hinder effectiveness. In the case of inertial navigation, quantum sensor limitations like bandwidth will likely require higher band-width, larger dynamic range co-sensors to be interfaced with the inertial navigation system. Additionally, there is a large trade space of co-sensors that may aide an inertial navigation system (e.g. altimeters, velocimetry and vision aides) as well as advanced algorithms and techniques to fuse sensor data, remove drift, and initialize the INS. The large trade space and system complexity make it difficult to assess what configuration of quantum sensors would maximally benefit a future inertial navigation system concept. A new atomic clock could interface with some systems that may easily spoil its effectiveness. For example, atomic clocks use oscillators with phase noise better than all other technologies, but RADAR systems that might take advantage of an atomic clock might use components that would add back phase noise that would spoil potential gains. The bottom line is that for quantum sensors to make significant impact on military systems, collaboration between scientists and relevant systems engineers needs to occur. This collaboration would educate systems engineers about the capabilities of quantum sensors, and the trade space that these sensors can operate. The collaboration will benefit scientists and quantum engineers by teaching them what sensor configurations would make the largest impact and therefore concentrate development efforts towards a more fruitful outcome for all parties and nations. The quantification of benefits of quantum sensors will require an understanding of models and the associated signal processing and sensor fusion algorithms to fuse multi-sensor data. It would also be very beneficial to have some sample data sets ("clean" as well as "challenge" data sets) to help focus efforts in the large trade space.


The proposed effort is to coordinate a 2 day workshop that would have the objective of bringing together navigation and timing systems engineers and quantum sensor technologists. Talks would be solicited from systems engineers and sensor specialists, split into roughly two sessions with discussion time in-between. One objective would be for the two communities to discuss areas of mutual benefit and areas of near term focus for research and development. This should include size, weight, and power goals, interoperability requirements, performance metrics, complete concepts of operation, and issues of environmental robustness. A second objective is to determine concepts that have the greatest perceived combination of military impact and fastest time to development. Finally, the third objective is to coordinate research across nations such that research groups have the opportunity to most efficiently use resources to maximum benefit either by jointly contributing to one problem or contributing to separate problems towards a combined positive outcome (e.g. each nation could work on different aspects of the navigation problem).


Navigation and timing system architectures including interface requirements, bandwidth, sensor combinations, the state of the art and its limitations. Issues regarding operation of quantum sensors on specific platforms. Gyroscopes, accelerometers, gravity and gravity gradient sensing, magnetic sensors for navigation aids.

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