Cold-Atom Timekeeper (CAT)
Navy SBIR FY2018.1

Sol No.: Navy SBIR FY2018.1
Topic No.: N181-037
Topic Title: Cold-Atom Timekeeper (CAT)
Proposal No.: N181-037-0047
Firm: ColdQuanta, Inc.
3030 Sterling Cir
Boulder, Colorado 80301
Contact: Evan Salim
Phone: (303) 440-1284
Web Site:
Abstract: The Navy is seeking to implement an innovative data-routing architecture employing unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) nodes. Such a system will place challenging demands on the size, weight, and power (SWAP) and robustness of the required timekeeping technology. Chip-scale atomic clocks (CSACs) have leveraged similar demand for good clock performance in a compact package. However, there is a substantial performance gap between CSACƒ?Ts and currently demonstrated laboratory systems. ColdQuanta, in partnership with Vescent Photonics, seeks to fill this gap by combining recent advances in compact cold atom clocks developed at NIST with ColdQuantaƒ?Ts robust ultraminiature vacuum cell technology and Vescentƒ?Ts frequency stable laser diode technology. Our objective is to develop a high-performance, low SWaP atomic clock. The proposed system utilizes laser light to cool atomic samples using a magneto-optic trap (MOT). During a measurement cycle, atoms are released and allowed to evolve freely. After the evolution period the cold atoms are probed using Ramsey interrogation with coherent population trapping (CPT). The clock signal is obtained by stabilizing the CPT light to the Ramsey signal. The goal is to demonstrate a Technology Readiness Level of 5 with our proposed clock, the Cold-Atom Timekeeper, or CAT, by the end of Phase II.
Benefits: ColdQuanta is developing a cold atom-based atomic clock for use onboard unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) named the Cold Atom Timekeeper, or CAT. In applications having critical timing requirements, such as data synchronization on moving UAV platforms, inertial navigation systems, and event time-stamping, the overall system performance generally scales with timing or frequency standard performance. That is, an order of magnitude improvement in the local clock can substantially enhance overall system performance. This SBIR is an opportunity to develop and bring to market an optical atomic clock in a form-factor suitable for UAV applications. Positioning, Navigation, and Timekeeping (PNT) is a substantial market, both for the DoD and commercial applications. For example, Microsemi Corporation Frequency-Time Division (formerly Symmetricom, Inc.) has a business in excess of $200M with its core atomic clock technology and is the leading producer of atomic clocks worldwide. The UAV market was estimated at $13.22B in 2016 and is projected to reach $28.27B by 2022, and as of 2014, the DoD had publicly disclosed ownership of 9,347 military-grade UAVs. ColdQuanta believes the proposed technology would best apply to DoD UAV Groups 4 and 5 (potentially Group 3). These groups include the more massive, high-altitude, long-endurance vehicles (such as the Q-4 and Q-9 models) as well as the Predator, Hunter, and Fire Scout models (totaling at 671 units). These UAVs and others that are used in similarly demanding environments will be the best targets for ColdQuanta, as the high-levels of performance enhancement offered by CAT will be most useful (and necessary) here. ColdQuantaƒ?Ts general commercialization strategy has two main elements: (i) providing complex technology in a compact, robust, and simplified package to enable applications and (ii) partnering with established solution providers who have the ability to address the market with the necessary resources in breadth as well as depth. ColdQuanta anticipates that commercialization of this technology will have an impact on its revenue stream in excess of $1M per year once fully mature. The award of this SBIR will accelerate ColdQuantaƒ?Ts commercialization strategy, benefiting customers in general and the DoD in particular. ColdQuanta will continue to establish its position as the worldƒ?Ts preeminent developer and supplier of Ultracold and Cold Atom Technologies (UCCAT) devices, instruments, and systems. ColdQuanta will also commercialize technology developed under this project into other markets beyond UAVs. We have introduced a whole suite of products into the UCCAT market, which are fielding impressive new uses in navigation, geology, and magnetometry, as well as fundamental science and quantum computing. The companyƒ?Ts business addresses technology needs of the DoD and prime contractors as well as commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) requirements in research and education. Current customers include the Air Force, Navy, ARL, NIST, and JPL as well as many universities and R&D groups.