Engineering SandboxAQ Successfully Tests its Quantum Navigation System with the U.S. Air Force


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MAY 23, 2023

  • SandboxAQ’s reported a successful tested of its advanced, quantum sensor-based magnetic anomaly navigation system.
  • The test flights were conducted last week at Travis Air Force Base by the 60th Air Mobility Wing.
  • The system uses signals from Earth’s magnetic field to act as an unchangeable global “fingerprint,” and compares the signals to existing map data to enhance accuracy
SandboxAQ today announced it has successfully tested its advanced, quantum sensor-based magnetic anomaly navigation system with the U.S. Air Force (USAF). The test flights, conducted last week at Travis Air Force Base by the 60th Air Mobility Wing, were part of an ongoing readiness and modernization effort to explore and develop an Assured Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (APNT) solution to augment the Global Positioning System (GPS). Such solutions will provide uninterrupted navigation in situations where GPS is unavailable or intentionally denied or spoofed.

In January 2023, the USAF awarded SandboxAQ a Direct-to-Phase-II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract to research quantum navigation technologies. “The need for GPS-alternatives is critical,” said Maj. Patrick Morgan, Wing Tactics. “If we’re executing a mission where GPS is not available, it’s important to have another solution to ensure mission continuity and ensure a safe exit and return to base for our Airmen.”

As part of last week’s Exercise, Golden Phoenix, SandboxAQ’s quantum navigation prototype was installed aboard a USAF C-17 GlobeMaster III military transport aircraft and successfully received geomagnetic navigation data on the ground and during multiple in-flight tests, completing its test flight milestones eight months ahead of schedule.

“Resilient global navigation is a mission-critical capability for military operations, but also for improving the safety and geospatial accuracy of commercial transport, business and leisure travel, autonomous vehicles, underwater or underground exploration, and more,” said Jen Sovada, Global Public Sector President at SandboxAQ. “We’re incredibly proud that our quantum navigation system performed admirably in its first in-flight test, and we look forward to the next phase with the USAF and other partners.”

Unlike traditional sensors, quantum sensors are highly sensitive to even the slightest changes in electric and magnetic fields. SandboxAQ’s system captures signals from Earth’s magnetic field, which acts as an unchangeable global “fingerprint,” and compares the signals to existing map data to enhance overall positional awareness. The system leverages artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to filter out “noise” (e.g., vibration, motion, electric impulses, etc.) generated by airplanes or other vehicles, which greatly improve signal processing speed and accuracy.

Key aspects of SandboxAQ’s quantum navigation system:

  • Unjammable Worldwide Signal: Because Earth’s magnetic field is omnipresent and unjammable, it provides unfettered access and a persistent, trusted signal from any location.
  • All-Weather: Quantum sensors are not influenced by clouds or lighting conditions, making them an effective complement to other navigation techniques.
  • Terrain Agnostic: Quantum navigation does not require visual ground features, making it a valuable tool for navigation in the air, over open water, on remote terrain, even underwater or underground.
  • Passive Technology: Quantum sensors passively receive geomagnetic data and do not emit or reflect any signals, which helps reduce a vehicle’s detectability.
  • Improved Global Magnetic Mapping: Sharing data generated by quantum sensors has the potential to enhance global magnetic maps for a variety of stakeholders and use cases.

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