Quantum-based accelerometer can locate objects without GPS

GPS is such an integral part of modern technology, from portable GPS locators to in-car navigation to drones, that it’s hard to imagine life without it. However, there are a number of situations where GPS is not available, due to factors like tall buildings which block the satellite signals that GPS relies on. In other cases, GPS signals can be deliberately blocked or jammed, preventing it from working correctly.

An alternative form of navigation is required for everything from navigating large vehicles to searching for dark matter in the far flung corners of space. Now, researchers at Imperial College London have created a quantum “compass” that allows navigation without reliance on satellites. The instrument, technically called a “standalone quantum accelerometer,” is small enough to be transportable and was shown off recently at the National Quantum Technologies Showcase.

quantum accelerometer no gps 181030 navigation 044
Imperial College London

An accelerometer is a tool used to measure the changes in an object’s velocity over time, and is a common piece of technology that you likely have embedded in your phone. With information about the original position of an object and information about its velocity, location can be determined. However, the problem with basic accelerometers is that their accuracy becomes poor over time without an external reference to recalibrate them. This means they are not useful for jobs where exact location specificity is required such as navigation.

The newly developed quantum accelerometer, on the other hand, has a very high level of accuracy. It achieves this by measuring the movements of supercool atoms, which are cooled to such a degree that they display quantum behavior: they are both particles and waves. The wave properties of the atoms are effected by acceleration, so the scientists examine the movements of the atoms by creating an atom interferometer — a tool which measures the displacement of waves. This means that the accelerometer can measure movement through space in a highly accurate way.

The device is still too large to fit into a compact space, but it is appropriate for use on ships and trains which need to be precisely located when GPS may not be available. Its large size is due to the powerful lasers that are required to get the atoms cold enough for the accelerometer to work.

Deals

Walmart drops prices on Apple Watches and other fitness trackers

Smartwatches, fitness trackers, and wearable heart rate monitors from Apple, Samsung, Fitbit, and Garmin are popular gifts. Wearables are smarter and more capable than in earlier years. We found the best wearables deals on Walmart.
Outdoors

Built to take a beating and still perform, these are the best hiking watches

A proper hiking watch should track exercise metrics and act as a navigational co-pilot during any kind of hike. Ideally, it'll even have a built-in GPS system and sensors. Here are five of the best hiking watches.
Home Theater

These awesome A/V receivers will swarm you with surround sound at any budget

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to shopping for a receiver, so we assembled our favorites for 2018, at multiple price points and all loaded with features, from Dolby Atmos to 4K HDR, and much more.
Emerging Tech

Prepare for liftoff: Here are all the important upcoming SpaceX rocket launches

From ISS resupply missions to a host of communication and scientific satellite launches, SpaceX has a busy year ahead. Here's a rundown of some of the company's most important missions slated for the next year.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.
Emerging Tech

Are e-cigarettes safe? Here’s what the most recent science says

Ecigarettes are widely regarded and advertised as a healthier alternative to cigarettes for people who are trying to kick the smoking habit. How safe are these cigarette alternatives? We went deep into the recent scientific literature to…
Emerging Tech

Rise of the Machines: Here’s how much robots and A.I. progressed in 2018

2018 has generated no shortage of news, and the worlds of A.I. and robotics are no exception. Here are our picks for the most exciting, game changing examples of both we saw this year.
Emerging Tech

Thrill-seekers will be able to pilot themselves in a giant drone as soon as 2019

Want to hitch a ride on a giant drone? The startup Lift Aircraft is gearing up to let paying customers fly its 18-rotor giant drones over assorted scenic landscapes across the U.S.
Emerging Tech

CRISPR gene therapy regulates hunger, staves off severe obesity in mice

Researchers from UC San Francisco have demonstrated how CRISPR gene editing can be used to prevent severe obesity in mice, without making a single edit to the mouse's genome. Here's how.
Emerging Tech

Capture app saves money by 3D scanning objects using iPhone’s TrueDepth camera

Capture is a new iPhone app created by the Y Combinator-backed startup Standard Cyborg. It allows anyone to perform 3D scans of objects and share them with buddies. Here's how it works.
Emerging Tech

Sick of walking everywhere? Here are the best electric skateboards you can buy

Thanks for Kickstarter and Indiegogo, electric skateboards are carving a bigger niche than you might think. Whether you're into speed, mileage, or something a bit more stylish, here are the best electric skateboards on the market.
Emerging Tech

Parker Solar Probe captures first image from within the atmosphere of the sun

NASA has shared the first image from inside the atmosphere of the sun taken by the Parker Solar Probe. The probe made the closest ever approach to a star, gathering data which scientists have been interpreting and released this week.
Emerging Tech

Say cheese: InSight lander posts a selfie from the surface of Mars

NASA's InSight mission to Mars has commemorated its arrival by posting a selfie. The selfie is a composite of 11 different images which were taken by one of its instruments, the Instrument Deployment Camera.
Emerging Tech

Researchers create a flying wireless platform using bumblebees

Researchers at the University of Washington have come up with a novel way to create a wireless platform: using bumblebees. As mechanical drones' batteries run out too fast, the team made use of a biology-based solution using living insects.