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WASHINGTON — SandboxAQ, a software and services company that delivers AI and quantum technologies, today unveiled a new navigation system it says will help counter GPS issues like jamming and spoofing. 

The company has quietly been working on the new navigation system, called AQNav, for the past 18 months, but Thursday marks the first public unveiling of the system.

“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,” John Richardson, the former Chief of Naval Operations — who know works closely with SandboxAQ as an advisor — said in a company press release sent to Breaking Defense. 

Richardson added that conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza have underlined the growing threat of GPS disruption and its implications on the future of warfare. 

AQNav uses AI algorithms, quantum sensors and the Earth’s crustal magnetic field to provide real-time navigation in situations where GPS signals are down or deterred. According to the company’s press release, AQNav works in any weather condition and can be used across air, land and sea terrains.

The Air Force awarded SandboxAQ a contract to develop tools using geomagnetic navigation in January of last year, and by May of 2023, AQNav had completed its first flight tests, per the press release. 

The new system relies on sensitive quantum magnetometers that gather data from the Earth’s crustal magnetic field, which has geographically unique patterns. The system then uses AI algorithms to compare the patterns from the Earth’s crust to known magnetic maps which lets AQNav find its position accurately and quickly. 

Because quantum sensors are highly sensitive, AI algorithms are employed to enhance the signal-to-noise ratio, which eliminates mechanical, electrical or other interferences that could affect the system’s ability to accurately determine its location. This allows AQNav to be impenetrable to issues like jamming and spoofing — or so the company believes.

“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,” Luca Ferrara, General Manager of Navigation at SandboxAQ, said in the press release. 

As of Tuesday, AQNav has operated on over four different aircraft types, completing over 40 deployments and logging over 200 flight-hours, including flight tests by the Air Force, Boeing and Acubed by Airbus. 

According to the press release, AQNav could potentially be used to improve autonomous vehicle control and be used underground or underwater where there are no GPS signals.