Brexit is in disarray and uncertainty hangs over Britain. This is not just true of the economy and business but many things that will affect all our lives.
One much talked about concern has been over our GPS system and access to the Galileo satellite navigation system. The UK is currently dependent on the US for its access to the GPS system, and the EU for the Galileo satellite navigation system.
Last August, Theresa May announced a £92m satellite project for the UK.
This was to develop a rival to the EU’s Galileo if Britain were to be frozen out of the project following Brexit, which many expect.
Dependence on the US and Galileo systems leaves the UK’s navigation systems exposed to the risks of international politics. There are also risks to the availability of the signal itself.
Now, Scientists from the University of Sussex have made a breakthrough in developing a technology which could replace the GPS and Galileo systems.
A Next-Generation laser technology has improved the accuracy of atomic clocks by 80%, according to researchers from Sussex.
The researchers from the Emergent Photonics Lab (EPic Lab) at the University of Sussex have made a breakthrough in developing atomic clocks.
This would mean accessing a satellite signal would be unnecessary.
Dr. Alessia Pasquazi from the EPic Lab explained what the breakthrough would mean;
“With a portable atomic clock, an ambulance, for example, will be able to still access their mapping whilst in a tunnel, and a commuter will be able to plan their route whilst on the underground or without mobile phone signal in the countryside.”
“Portable atomic clocks would work on an extremely accurate form of geo-mapping, enabling access to your location and planned route without the need for satellite signal.”
“Our breakthrough improves the efficiency of the part of the clock responsible for counting by 80%,” Dr. Pasquazi added, saying it was a step forward “to seeing portable atomic clocks replacing satellite mapping, like GPS”.
But, it won’t be ready in time if we leave the EU.
There is a but here though, and it’s a big but. Dr. Pasquazi estimates that it could happen “within 20 years”. This means that it won’t happen by the time the UK is cut off from accessing Galileo by the time the country leaves the EU
That doesn’t mean the breakthrough isn’t enormous, as Dr. Pasquazi stated:
“This technology will change people’s everyday lives as well as potentially being applicable in driverless cars, drones and the aerospace industry.”
Atomic clocks are the top tier of humanity’s time measuring inventions and lose less than a single second every ten billion years.
Unfortunately, the current devices are impossible to move around, weighing hundreds of kilograms.
The compact laser-based atomic clock developed by the University of Sussex team “could revolutionise the way we count time in the future”, according to the University’s Professor Marco Peccianti.