The terminology quantum compass often relates to an instrument which measures relative position using the technique of atom interferometry. It includes an ensemble of accelerometers and gyroscope based on quantum technology[1] to form an Inertial Navigation Unit.


The work about quantum technology based inertial measurement units (IMUs), the instruments containing the gyroscopes and accelerometers follows from the early demonstrations of matter-wave based accelerometers and gyrometers.[2] The first demonstration of onboard acceleration measurement was made on an Airbus A300 in 2011.[3]

A quantum compass contains clouds of atoms frozen using lasers. By measuring the movement of these frozen particles over precise periods of time the motion of the device can be calculated. The device would then provide a tamper proof accurate position in circumstances where satellites are not available for satellite navigation, e.g. a fully submerged submarine.[4]

Various defence agencies worldwide, such as DARPA[5] or the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence[6][4] have pushed the development of prototypes for future uses in submarines and aircraft.


  1. ^ Chen, Sophia (2018). "Quantum Physicists Found a New, Safer Way to Navigate". Wired.
  2. ^ Kasevich, Mark (2012). "Precision Navigation Sensors based on Atom Interferometry" (PDF). Stanford Center for Position, Navigation and Time.
  3. ^ Dillow, Clay. "For the First Time, Researchers Use an Atom Interferometer to Measure Aircraft Acceleration". Popular Science. Retrieved September 29, 2011.
  4. ^ a b "Quantum positioning system steps in when GPS fails". New Scientist. 14 May 2014. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  5. ^ Kramer, David (2014-09-30). "DARPA looks beyond GPS for positioning, navigating, and timing". Physics Today. 67 (10): 23–26. Bibcode:2014PhT....67j..23K. doi:10.1063/PT.3.2543. ISSN 0031-9228.
  6. ^ "MoD creates 'coldest object in the universe' to trump GPS". The Daily Telegraph. 18 May 2014. Retrieved 18 May 2014.