AI & Quantum Powered Navigation System to Counter GPS Jamming Threats

AQNav from SandboxAQ uses AI algorithms, quantum sensors, and the Earth's crustal magnetic field to provide an unjammable, all-weather, terrain-agnostic, real-time navigation solution in situations where GPS signals are unavailable or denied By Joseph Macey / 27 Jun 2024
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SandboxAQ has introduced the company’s new AQNav Technology, a commercial real-time navigation system powered by AI and quantum to address GPS jamming.

AQNav is designed for navigation across air, land and sea when Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) systems are jammed or not available. 

To date, AQNav is said to have logged more than 200 flight-hours and more than 40 sorties across multiple regions of the world on four different aircraft types, ranging in size from single-engine planes to large military transport aircraft.

AQNav is a geo-magnetic navigation system that leverages proprietary AI algorithms, powerful quantum sensors, and the Earth’s crustal magnetic field. AQNav will provide an unjammable, all-weather, terrain-agnostic, real-time navigation solution in situations where GPS signals are unavailable, denied, or spoofed. 

Eric Schmidt, Chairman of SandboxAQ and former Chairman and CEO of Alphabet, said; “As a licensed jet pilot with many hours of flight time, I appreciate how much we rely on GPS for navigation. Our national defense relies upon GPS in the air, on land, and at sea. The global civilian airspace relies upon this system. Given the ease of jamming and spoofing GPS, it is critical to have a global supplementary navigation system that works with inertial systems – this is what SandboxAQ has developed with AQNav. 

“AQNav is a great example of how AI is impacting society in novel ways. Navigation by the Earth’s magnetic field is possible because of the ability of AI to analyze the magnetic signals from the quantum sensors in real time. Airlines and air forces around the world now have a safe way to navigate that cannot be jammed.”

Beyond disrupting transportation and logistics, GPS interference also impacts a broad range of industries, including agriculture, financial services, and public infrastructure and safety systems, such as environmental monitoring, utilities and roadway management, and disaster response.

Jack D. Hidary, CEO of SandboxAQ, said; “GPS is a ubiquitous tool that billions of people rely on every day for their comfort, safety, security and prosperity. The intentional disruption of this transformational technology by nation-states and others puts human lives at risk and impacts governments and economies. 

“Working closely with our public- and private-sector partners, SandboxAQ has used AI and quantum tech to create a safe, secure navigation alternative to supplement GPS, and we’re proud to make our breakthrough AQNav system widely available to companies and governments around the world.”

In January 2023, the U.S. Air Force (USAF) awarded SandboxAQ a Direct-to-Phase-II Small Business Innovation Research contract to explore geomagnetic navigation. By May 2023, the company successfully completed the first flight tests of AQNav – eight months ahead of schedule – during Exercise Golden Phoenix. The system was also flight-tested in August 2023 during Exercise Mobility Guardian – Air Mobility Command’s largest exercise ever at the time.

General Mike Minihan, Commander, Air Mobility Command (AMC), of the U.S. Air Force, said; “We must embrace the realities of what it will take to maneuver the Joint force in a degraded and contested environment. Improving the Mobility Air Force’s navigation is one of the four major gaps we have focused on closing. Doing so requires innovative technological solutions to improve survivability and extend our ability to deliver victory.”

In addition to the USAF, SandboxAQ is said to be engaged with several aerospace leaders, including other allied governments as well as Boeing and Acubed – the Silicon Valley research and innovation center of Airbus. All have used the system on test flights in many different geographies across the globe. Acubed recently awarded SandboxAQ an RFP to continue the evaluation of the AQNav system for commercial aviation.

Eric Euteneuer, Principal Systems Engineer at Acubed, a subsidiary of Airbus, said; “Acubed has installed SandboxAQ’s AQNav system on the Acubed test aircraft to test and train a magnetic navigation system and further research how quantum sensors and magnetic navigation can support a resilient navigation solution. 

“Our collaboration has provided valuable insights of the sensitivities of the magnetic navigation stack and Acubed looks forward to understanding broad system performance to support commercial use.”

AQNav uses extremely sensitive quantum magnetometers to acquire data from Earth’s crustal magnetic field, which exhibits geographically unique patterns – similar to a human fingerprint. AQNav uses AI algorithms to compare this data against known magnetic maps, enabling the system to quickly and accurately find its position. Due to the high sensitivity of quantum sensors, AI algorithms are applied to improve the signal-to-noise ratio, removing any mechanical, electrical, or other interference that would impact the system’s ability to acquire its location.

Luca Ferrara, General Manager of Navigation at SandboxAQ, added; “GPS is easy to jam and spoof. When planes and ships lose GPS in motion and switch over to inertial navigation systems, the vehicle then drifts and soon finds itself off course. The Earth’s crustal magnetic field provides a persistent, passive external signal, making it a highly reliable data source for navigation in concert with other inertial and other sources. 

“AQNav works with existing navigation systems, including inertial, visual, satellite, and other emerging technologies, creating a robust and resilient system-of-systems that will improve navigational accuracy and safety for our customers.”

Dana Goward, President of the Resilient Navigation and Timing Foundation, added; “GPS denial, jamming and spoofing have become growing global concerns that jeopardize aircraft and passenger safety, disrupt other commercial and military operations, and affect the reliability of essential services. 

“As the world’s dependence on GPS continues to increase, it is imperative that resilient, robust, and complementary GPS alternatives be implemented to mitigate the economic and security repercussions of interference.”

AQNav offers worldwide availability and the approach can be applied in all domains, including air, land, and sea. The system doesn’t rely on visual ground features or satellite transmissions to function and is not affected by weather conditions. AQNav operates at room temperature, requires no shielding, and has a small form factor that can be integrated into a wide variety of platforms, from multi-engine airliners to unmanned aerial vehicles. Its passive technology emits no electronic signals, which reduces the aircraft’s detectability.

AQNav increases useful navigation for aircraft navigating within the frameworks of regulatory bodies such as the International Civil Aviation Organization and U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s established area navigation and performance-based navigation concepts. SandboxAQ and its partners are exploring a broad range of use cases that utilize this core functionality for both commercial and defense applications.

Admiral John Richardson (retired), former Chief of U.S. Naval Operations, added; “One of the most important advances in modern warfare has been the ability to act with precision in both time and space. This is enabled by near-ubiquitous, satellite-provided signals like GPS. Everybody understands that this is the first point of attack – how to disrupt the enemy’s ability to use GPS and similar systems. Recent conflicts have shown this to be true. Systems like AQNav are absolutely essential to address this critical vulnerability. As a military and as a nation, we must mature these systems that allow us to maintain precision in a GPS-denied environment. It’s fundamental to the way we conduct war.”

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Posted by Joseph Macey Connect & Contact
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