Rotation sensors

Quantum technologies will allow extremely sensitive, bias-free rotation sensors for inertial navigation, stabilisation and measurement.

Free atoms are ideal test masses for inertial sensing. Identical and perfectly isolated, they provide inertial references that can be measured with exquisite precision, using quantum enhancements for further improvements in sensitivity. Matterwave rotation sensors perform absolute, drift-free measurements of rotation rates and can be tailored for different sensitivities, read-out rates and dynamic ranges.

Rotation sensors will be used for:

  • Inertial navigation
  • Roll stabilisation
  • True north determination
  • Avionic sensors
  • Attitude control
  • Image stabilisation
  • Spacecraft guidance
  • Gun laying
  • UAV control
  • Survey systems
  • Virtual reality
  • Rotation sensors

Photo of sat nav in vehicle dashboard

The Rotation activity is developing the technology for a compact, highly sensitive rotation sensor, for applications in inertial navigation and stabilisation. Our first prototype, matching MEMS performance, will allow early field evaluation of this quantum sensing technology; subsequent systems will surpass the sensitivities of the best commercial fibre/ring-laser devices. To achieve this ultimate performance, we are exploring a variety of systems including freely-falling atoms that allow measurement via the Coriolis effect; guided atoms confined to a ring structure within which fee propagation is limited to a circular path; and a solution that is operated like an atomic clock. We are also investigating the optimum designs for magnetic, optical and microwave confinement potentials.

At the conclusion of the first phase of this programme, the benefits and costs of each approach will be assessed and compared; this will be assisted by an industry-compatible systems simulation, in collaboration with the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) and based on our optical interferometry simulation programme. One of the competing approaches will be selected for further development, guided by the outcomes of other prototyping packages, into a compact device with a target rotation sensitivity of 2×10^-9 rad s^-1 Hz^-1/2.