Time and again it has been proved that it is not possible to get GPS signals everywhere on Earth. But no worries! Places where GPS can’t reach, now world’s first Quantum compass will be able to do so.
While the dynamic nature of GPS technology has revolutionized a wide-spectrum of fields and re-defied the “where” factor, the technology has many footfalls as well.
Heavily dependent on satellite signals, there can be situations where satellites may give erratic signals due to volatile space environment or tall buildings. Also GPS can be easily spoofed to give a false location, thus leading to major security issues.
Touted to be humanity’s first quantum ‘compass’, the device is independent of satellite-based Global Positioning System (GPS). The project has been funded by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) under the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme and the instrument has been built by scientists at the Imperial College in London.
How does quantum compass work?
Particularly useful to navigate autonomous cars or large ships, the quantum compass is totally self-contained. Also known as quantum accelerometer, the instrument gives exact location by using the starting point of an object and measuring how an object’s velocity changes.
Even though accelerometers already exist in mobile phones and laptops, they are not accurate enough and have to be re-calibrated regularly. A quantum device measures how supercooled atoms move at very low temperatures (near absolute zero). At such temperatures, atoms behave in a ‘quantum’ manner, acting simultaneously as both particles and waves, as mentioned by Sputnik News.
The only thing that will dent its impact is the large size of the device. Even though the device is portable but it is too large to be fitted inside a gadget like smartphones.
A boon to astronauts
Another disadvantage of GPS technology is that it cannot be used in space. The reason being GPS signals sent by the satellite can be received on Earth or in low-Earth orbit. Anywhere beyond Earth’s surface it does not work.
Till now NASA has been bypassing this issue and has installed ground transmitters looking upward, so that it can steer the unmanned missions. However, in future manned missions outside our solar systems will a big problem as the radio signals from Earth would take hours to reach the spacecraft even though traveling at the speed of light.
Quantum compass will be a great help in deep space as it would be able to accurately trace the location of a spacecraft.
UK at the forefront
The UK Ministry of Defence has been heavily investing on developing independent navigation devices especially that could be used in nuclear submarines.
The quantum compass will put UK at the forefront of upcoming quantum age. The UK’s promotion of this device showcases a perfect amalgamation of industry and academia that would lead to real-world applications for the betterment of society.
So, does the quantum compass has the true potential to replace GPS? With time the mystery will be unlocked.