The next generation of quantum networks to include drones.
For several years, scientists have been actively working to build a usual quantum network to enable more secure communication. So far, they have demonstrated sending entangled quantum particles over fiber optic cables, between ground-based towers, and from satellites to grounds.
A team of researchers with several institutions in China have utilized drones to create a small airborne quantum network to send entangled particles between drones and from a drone to the ground. Their research is published in the journal Physical Review Letters.
What are Entangled Particles?
In quantum physics, entangled particles remain connected to each other even when separated by great distances. Actions performed on one of the particles affects the other. For example, let’s take a pair of entangled Photons, Photon A and Photon B. When observed, Photon A takes on an up-spin state, and Photon B takes up a state relative to Photon A, even though they are separated by a large distance. This forms the basis of quantum computing as well as the quantum network.
Satellites can cater to the long-range quantum network. However, small networks, such as communication between users within a city, require simple solutions. Communication towers can serve this purpose, but they are susceptible to weather and other forms of intentional and non-intentional interruptions. Drones provide a workaround for these problems.
The setup involves a small laser-generating device on a drone to create an entangled photon pair. One of the photons is directed towards a ground station, while the other to another drone. The second drone acts as a relay device, forwarding to a third drone – which refocusses and forwards the photon to another ground station. Motorized devices on the drones ensure transmitters and receivers line up properly for transmission.
Though the prototype sent the photons to a distance of one kilometer, the researchers suggest that moving the drones higher would enable transmission for up to 300 kilometers. According to the researchers, there are multiple options – including moving vehicles on the ground and adding satellites to the network.
Their research is the first in the quantum network involving moving devices.
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