ANU wins $3 million for research on precision navigation device

11 November 2016

Australia can be the leader in this new technology. Devices providing location information are critical for civilian and defence applications, and this is a multi-billion dollar industry that is rapidly growing.

ANU researchers have won a $2.96 million contract from the Department of Defence to design a navigation device that does not need a GPS signal and could be used on submarines, ships, aircraft and land vehicles.

Lead researchers Professor John Close and Associate Professor Nick Robins from the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering said the new device, based on an ultra-cold atom laser, would make more precise measurements than today's technology. 

"Australia can be the leader in this new technology. Devices providing location information are critical for civilian and defence applications, and this is a multi-billion dollar industry that is rapidly growing," Professor Close said.

"It's an important opportunity to build collaboration between the defence sector and academia in Australia that can lead to new technologies and a start-up defence technology culture."

The device could be fitted on board a submarine, aeroplane or other types of vehicles to precisely detect acceleration, gravity, rotation and time, Professor Close said.

"As long as you know the starting point and a map, this device could be used to pinpoint the location," he said.   

Professor Robins said the new research would focus on acceleration and gravity, building on the ANU team's 18 years of world-leading work in the field.

"It's inspiring to see a branch of very fundamental atomic physics - Bose-Einstein condensates of dilute gases - make the jump to a potentially transformative technology," he said.

"It shows, once again, that funding creative scientific inquiry often spins off game-changing applications," Professor Robins said.

Professor Close said the contract was the product of collaboration between ANU and the new Defence Innovation Hub's Capability and Technology Demonstrator Program.

"ANU is looking forward to a productive working relationship with the Defence innovation team across the life of this project," he said.