Satellite-Free Navigation Systems 3 to 5 Years Away: Report Photo:

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Trevor Collett | May, 21 2014 | 4 Comments

UK scientists are reportedly developing a navigation system that does not rely on satellites. And, according to GPS Daily, the technology, known as 'quantum positioning', could be available to the military within five years.

The report suggests that the new navigation system will initially serve in submarines, as the technology has the advantage of working underwater where current GPS tech does not.

Eventually, the technology behind it will find its way to smart phones, cars and aftermarket navigation devices for use by the general public.

The new positioning system uses ‘earth-based’ technology in ways that resemble science fiction.

Using a Nobel Prize-winning discovery, atoms trapped in a vacuum are laser-cooled to temperatures of one-millionth of a degree above absolute zero.

The atoms - once chilled - become extremely sensitive to changes in the earth’s magnetic and gravitational field, which enables scientists to accurately pinpoint where they are.

The system will replace the much-less accurate accelerometers currently used in submarines. UK Defence Scientist Neil Stansfield said, "Today, if a submarine goes a day without a GPS fix, we'll have a navigation drift of the order of a kilometre when it surfaces."

US military authorities have warned in the past that current GPS navigation methods are susceptible to being blocked or confused by enemies, while tall buildings and infrastructure can easily disrupt signals in the civilian world.

The technology will need to shrink before it becomes available in smart phones and cars, as the initial prototype is around one metre long.

As the UK military wishes to equip its foot soldiers with the technology, however, we can expect that the shrinking process with happen sooner rather than later.

MORE: Technology news, UK news

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